By DEVIN WEEKS
COEUR d’ALENE — Plenty is happening at The Well-Read Moose on any given day.
In the children's corner, a mother shares her love of reading with her little one, who’s fascinated by the words and images on the pages of the books.
At a cafe table, two aproned managers sip coffee and as they hash out a schedule.
A retired teacher is checking out the new reads on display, taking his time as he browses books about Paul Simon or fictional adventures.
"I've always loved books," Summer Linthicum of Coeur d’Alene said Wednesday as she and 6-year-old daughter Cheyenne visited the Moose. "There’s just something special about a bookstore."
The Well-Read Moose is celebrating five years in business — no small feat for an independent brick-and-mortar bookstore in a digital age.
"I love books," said bookseller Anna Rose Carleton, who has worked at the Moose for a year and a half. "I own tons of them, and I’ve never liked to read on the tablets because I can’t. They just hurt my eyes."
Store owner Melissa DeMotte said she never intended to buy a bookstore; she already had a career in finance and accounting.
But something called to her.
"Every time I traveled for clients, I’d always go find the independent bookstore, but I never thought I’d own one," she said, sitting at a table in the bookstore cafe. "It was not on the radar. But after Borders closed, I was sad, and I drove by there and I was frustrated."
She joined the American Booksellers Association, a nonprofit that supports independent bookstores. She attended a conference in New York called "So You're Thinking of Owning a Bookstore?"
"We’d gotten through the recession. A lot of independent bookstores closed,” she said. "It was the double-whammy — you’ve got this influx of e-reading that everybody thought was going to be the way everyone would read forever, and the economy."
As the economy made a comeback, however, so did actual books.
"People were coming back to paper," DeMotte said. "They didn't always want to read on a device."
Dan Cullen, American Booksellers Association Senior Strategy Officer, said independent bookstores have experienced a resurgence in the past 10 years and independent bookstore sales are up. Overall, he said, book sales across indie bookstores for 2017 increased 2.6 percent from 2016, and sales in 2018 increased nearly 5 percent from the year before.
"As a result, given the strength of recent years, the compound growth in our channel over the past five years is a very healthy 7.5 percent," he said. "All of this is a result of the fact that indie booksellers remain a resilient and entrepreneurial group — and that independent bookstores offer a unique — and unparalleled — opportunity for the discovery of new authors and great writing.
"Nationally, new stores are opening, established stores are finding new owners, and a new generation is coming into the business as both owner/managers and frontline booksellers. For the ninth year in a row, ABA bookstore membership has grown, with stores operating in more than 2,400 locations."
Independent bookstores like The Well-Read Moose offer more than a website and a transaction. DeMotte said she and her team strive to take excellent care of their customers. In return, The Moose offers a rewards program: For every $100 a customer spends, he or she receives 20 percent off their next purchase. The inventory includes not only books but also journals, pens and highlighters, puppets, mugs and playing cards. Cozy chairs and quiet corners for perusing invite guests to linger a while in the 2,700-square-foot space. The café, with beer and wine selections, prompts visitors to take their time and enjoy themselves.
"Because indie stores have vital and unique ties to their communities, they serve as important community centers, connecting readers and book buyers more closely with authors, great writing, other passionate readers and their neighbors," Cullen said.
The need for something tangible and a physical location to enjoy the literary world helped The Moose charge ahead. Now it’s celebrating five years in Riverstone.
“I love that people can come here and have a quiet conversation," DeMotte said. "We have book clubs over in book-club corner, we have our own clubs we host and we probably have a dozen other clubs that meet. We’ve had Bible studies here, knitting, there’s a grandma and grandson who come and they bring their chess board and play chess here. I love that. It’s just a place to be."
It will be the place to be for guests 21 and older and Moose lovers alike during the first evening of the anniversary celebration from 6 to 7:30 p.m. this Friday. Townsend Winery representatives will be on hand to start the fun.
“We’ve had their wines in the wine bar since we opened, and they’re a favorite of mine,” DeMotte said.
On Saturday, the Moose will present story time at 11 a.m., a birthday cake from Pastry and More at noon and family-friendly trivia at 1 p.m.
Five years into her venture, DeMotte said she feels great about how things have transpired. She credits her committed staff, plenty of repeat customers and a book industry that continues to boom.
“I’m very proud. I get kind of emotional,” she said. “It’s been hard, but way more rewarding than I ever would have thought. I was excited because I love to read, but I didn’t really grasp how much people would love us and how rewarding it would be."
The Well-Read Moose is located at 2048 N. Main St., Coeur d'Alene.