I am a lover of books – my favorite being mystery fiction, but I have been known to read best sellers, fantasy, non-fiction and poetry. I also admit to being a Stephen King fan. I have read every book he has written. I will never have a Kindle or any other e-reader. I enjoy the library and visiting independent bookstores. Call me weird but I just like the feel and smell of books.
My brother worked for a few months at the Lido Bookstore, located in Lido Marina Village, in the late 70s, and he said it was the job that has given him the most joy. I have visited it in its many entities over the years, so I decided to find out more about this independent bookstore operation. On April 2nd, I taped an interview with the owner, Dan Schmenk. Here it is.
Lido book Shoppe opened in 1972 and was owned for 20 years by a married couple who lived in Laguna Beach. He was a buyer for Norton, a major publishing company. A new owner took over in the late 1980s. He had 6 or 7 other stores and Lido Books was his first in Orange County. It closed the day after 9-11 and the space was empty for several months. When Dan stopped by one day to buy a book, he found the shop closed. Being retired for a while Dan was looking for something interesting to occupy his time. He contacted the property manager of the Village about taking over the empty space, and Lido Village Books was born.
“It has been tough.” says Dan. “No one in their right mind will open a bookstore to make money. It is truly a labor of love!”
Dan and his wife Linda were English teachers for 30+ years. Their only qualification for book shop ownership was their love of books. I asked him about his demographic and the customers he serves. For the first 16 years, his customers were older – in the 45-75 age range and very loyal to Lido Books. In the last two years besides that demographic, the majority are in the 20-240 age range. A third of his sales are children’s books.
As an independent bookstore owner, his biggest challenge is to hire workers who know and love books, make themselves familiar with the books the store carries, be able to help customers choose the right books – ones specific to their needs. Dan feels very fortunate that his current staff meets all these requirements.
I asked Dan what sets his store apart from other independent bookstores and was surprised by his response. He feels that all independents are “in this together” in that they hand-pick books they stock and are actually curators for their stores. They refer to each other if they don’t have what the customer wants. There are only 3 indies in Orange County now, and I don’t imagine that the number will increase any time soon.
In the age of social media, he averages 10 website orders per month, and they are from the local community. His store averages 40 customers per day. In the 1/2 hour or so of our interview a half dozen people entered and 2 made purchases.
There are at least two events a month at Lido Village Books including author signings and lectures. Little Lido Kids Club meets every third Thursday for reading, live music and crafts. Attendance is from 20 to 50 children and parents. April 26th features the book “The Rainbow Fish” and May 17th is “How I Became a Pirate”. There are always raffles and special book discounts.
The completely renovated Lido Marina Village has lured quite a crowd. It is aesthetically pleasing with lots of comfortably furnished conversation areas and a lovely view of the marina and the rich people’s yachts. The mix of retail stores and restaurants attract all age groups and appeal to many lifestyles and culinary tastes. As for Lido Village Books, Dan said that in the last 12 months sales have more than doubled from the total for the previous 16 years! Visit the Village, buy a book, walk around, have something to eat, go back and buy another book.
Current fiction paperback and hardcover non-fiction are popular, with children’s books (including teen and young adult fiction) always leading the way. When asked about his most unusual requests, his answer was so surprising and shocking that I have decided not to mention it here. If you are curious, stop by and ask Dan yourself.
For the first 16 years social media did not play much of a part in the success of his business. But now Dan’s wife, who is in charge of all social media outlets to market Lido Village Books, has put them out there everywhere! Be sure to check out lidovillagebooks.com, http://www.facebook.com/lidovillagebooks and @lidovillagebooks. Or if you prefer the old-fashioned way, call him at 949-673-2549. Be sure to visit the store at 3424 Via Oporto, Suite 102B, Newport Beach. Tell Dan that Barbara sent you.
The Other Thing – Saturday, April 28th is “Independent Bookstore Day”. So stop by anytime between 10am and 5pm and show your support. There will be fun for all!