Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Bookstore That Is Nothing Short of CLASSIC

Company: Classics Bookstore
Owner: Eric Maywar
Address: 117 S. Warren Street, Trenton, NJ
Phone Number: 609-394-8400
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=129424620065
Email Address: book_cellar@mindspring.com
 
 If you happen to be in the mood for a good read at an affordable rate, then look no further than Classics Bookstore located in the heart of Downtown Trenton. They not only offer copies of your favorite books, they also offer a great opportunity to meet and connect with some very interesting folks. From their book signings to their Scrabble nights, they are definitely a beacon of light in the city of Trenton. I invite you to stop by and check them out, trust me you won’t be disappointed. Below you will find a copy of Anwar’s Reflections exclusive interview with the owner of Classics, Eric Maywar:

AGS: First off, can you tell our listeners out there a little bit about your business?

 Sure, Classics is a used and rare book store but we spend a majority of our time doing community related stuff. We provide free books for Trenton kids. We let community groups meet here for free, which has been a lot of fun. We run a Scrabble night on Friday nights that goes till midnight. A knitting club was also started here. People expand their networks by coming here. People have received jobs simply by going here and conversing with others. In addition, we also do book fairs and book signings. The bottom line is that we do a bunch of things that go beyond simply selling books.

In 2009, we handed out over $4,000 worth of books to area kids through our Books at Home program. We work with distribution groups that help hand out books on our behalf. For example, the
Columbus School, the New Black Panther Party, and the local police come to mind. They all came to Classics wanting to hand out books to local kids. We also had the organization, Children's Future, come out and give out books during the Puerto Rican Day parade.

We found studies indicating that young kids with a personal library at their home tend to do better in school and get placed in college. They’re more likely to graduate. We here at Classics wanted to help kids get access to these books. In my experience, various groups have contributed to the Books at Home program and we are grateful. For example, there was Capital Health Center, Wiedel Insurance, Black Rock Financial, and Hutchinson. As a matter of fact, Black Rock has a book club as well.

AGS: What is your background? Is this the first time you have owned and operated your own business? How long have you been open?
  
This is my first time I have owned a business. I taught in the past, and worked in market research. However, the corporate world was not fulfilling to me. So, I decided to try something different.
AGS: What motivated you to start your own business? 

Well, I'm a book-a-holic, I love books. But there’s also a story behind why I started Classics. Years ago my wife and I were going to Imani Community Church and they were trying to raise money to fix their roof. We ended up buying a whole host of books for $50 from a minister that was in a hurry to move. So we decided to sell the books as a way to help the church fix their roof. But we only ended up selling six. So we all had these books left, we then did flea markets, we then moved and put the books in our large basement. So we had 10 bookcases full of books. And we started inviting used book store owners over to our house. We played Scrabble together and had wine. They ended buying the books wholesale for their stores. So after a while, people started asking when are you going to open up your own business. So by accident, we started this business . I really enjoy owning a bookstore because I have really great conversations with the people that come in. It’s a lot of fun.
                            
AGS: Where did the name come from? 

My wife came up with the name. We had a store in New Hope, and the TDA recruited us and said that the downtown district needed a bookstore. First they wanted to set up a co-op where we have an antiques person, and an arts person along with our bookstore. So we needed to come up with a umbrella name for all those things. So my wife Donna said what about Classics, you can have classic artwork, classic antiques, and classic books. So we decided to use the name Classics.
AGS: In your own words, what makes your business unique?

 Our community focus makes us unique. None of these other bookstores have a ‘Books at Home program’. We really put an emphasis on giving back to the community.

AGS: Did you face any challenges when launching your business? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?

 Well, we were unsure how successful we would be. So we reached out to a market research company to help us better prepare. They were very helpful. Next the TDA (Trenton Downtown Association) made it very easy for us to come in on a trial basis and operate our business. They had things in place that made moving in very easy. For instance, they had reduced rent because there were three people in the building at the time, they had a faƧade grant, they offered to pay for some of the sign. So there were challenges but we had help so we made out okay.

AGS: How do you advertise or promote your business?

 Well, we don’t have a big marketing budget, but I have been very good at guerilla marketing which essentially involves no money on our part. At Classics, we realize that more people read articles than read advertisements. Since we do events, we inform the papers and if they think the story is newsworthy, they usually write about us. In addition, we’ve also used social media. For instance, we use Facebook and Twitter.

AGS: Have you taken advantage of internet marketing at all? If so, how effective do you think this advertising method is? If not, how interested are you in learning more about internet marketing?

Yes, we take advantage of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Facebook has been helpful because it allows us to really start a conversation with the public and inform people about special events and promotions.

AGS: Being that you're an entrepreneur yourself, what advice, if any, would you give an up and coming entrepreneur that wants to succeed?

Do a good business plan and know what your assumptions are. Dont think its going to be easy. Do your research. Following a business plan will help you think about what you're doing in a very systematic way. Utilize your community resources. For example, in Trenton there are small business loans. In addition, there is a training program with Isles. CCRC also has low interest loans for potential entrepreneurs. There are places that will give you advice on your business plan. The TDA (Trenton Downtown Association) will help you with ribbon cutting, grand opening, site selection, mentoring, and advocacy.

AGS: Will you give us another interview one year from now so we can follow upon your progress?
Certainly, you can have another interview.
AGS: Thank you very much for your time.

AGS is an acronym that stands for the author and founder of Anwar's Reflections, Anwar G. Salandy


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