Log in

No account? Create an account
03 December 2009 @ 11:42 am
We Love Booksellers! Interview with Caitlin Doggart of Where the Sidewalk Ends  
Chatham, Massachusetts, located on the "elbow" of Cape Cod, is a prime summertime destination, boasting dozens of clear white sandy beaches, fine dining of every type, and wonderful shopping on Main Street. And what summer vacation is complete without a good book or two to read on the beach? Where the Sidewalk Ends fills that need beautifully, though it is tempting to linger in the comfy chairs by the fireplace on rainy days...

The Inkpot recently talked with Caitlin Doggart, co-owner of this jewel of a bookstore:

Welcome, Caitlin, and thank you for talking to us! Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into bookselling, and about your bookstore?

My family has always loved books, and my mother, Joanne Doggart, and I used to dream about owning an independent bookstore together someday. When the two-story "antique" barn became available in town, there was a flash of "it's now or never!" and we took the leap, opening Memorial Day weekend of 2005. We wanted to create a store that had a good ambiance, and the high bookshelves, post-and-beam construction, and fireplace charmed us immediately. One of our main priorities was to keep it friendly for families, so we allow room for strollers between our shelving, offer plenty of deck seating and chairs inside, and have a small cafe.

I always knew I wanted to work with books in some capacity, and I worked at a literary agency, for a NYC publisher, and at bookstores throughout college and graduate school, always preferring the personal interaction that comes from the bookstore end of the process. My mother has a business degree background, but also taught nursery school for nearly a decade, so she has a terrific instinct for children's books and events.

How do you view your role as an independent bookseller? What do you find most rewarding about your job? What is most challenging?

We see our role as independent booksellers as matching readers to books, and it is incredibly gratifying to hand a customer a title that we are confident that they will love, and see their enthusiasm to read it and discuss it. We also play a role in creating community. Our manager, Joanie Goodrow, has a large following scouting out her Staff Picks around the store, and people will often drive from other towns to faithfully buy what she likes after years of building a relationship with her favorite titles. We also have a vibrant Book Club, sold-out Literary Luncheons with authors in the summer, and a hopping locale during Chatham's Christmas Stroll with Wine Tastings and Children's Gingerbread Workshops. We especially love being incorporated into the summer vacation routine of so many families. It's exciting to see customers that have become friends return each year with new tastes and recommendations, eager to talk about new books.

How can readers and authors work with and support independent booksellers?

Great question! Authors have big audiences - when they mention independent and local bookstores specifically by name, or refer to Indiebound, which is a national affiliation of independent stores, instead of referencing general chains, it goes a long way toward raising conciousness about the value of the independent stores. Booksignings are also wonderful ways of showing support, for which we are eternally grateful.

Readers can come in! The real value of the indies lies in the unique physical charm that each offers as their own personality. Offering a physical space to look at and touch books is the driving force behind independent bookstores. True booklovers love the tactile nature of browsing, of spotting a cover a few shelves away and buying the book in an instinctual swoon, and when readers buy their books from independent bookstores, they make the continued existence of a physical place possible. It's a question of what readers would like their money to support. I love that our readers are very active in our store, offering up recommendations for our "Customer Recs" page of our store newsletter, placing special orders, and participating in our Book Clubs.

What excites you most about YA and MG fantasy?

The creative variety in the plots is astounding! Fantasy for young readers is positively engaging - the very fact that the plots have a fantastical element makes them timeless; they seem to fall just within the realm of possibility for any given time period or setting. I also get excited about strong protagonists, and really enjoy seeing characters show emotional strength in difficult situations. I think YA and MG fantasy characters make particularly compelling role models for kids because readers can primarily identify with personality, since circumstances in the books are so different from their own reality.

Can you tell us about a few of your recent favorite YA or MG fantasy books?

Aside from the Leland sisters? I devoured The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in an absolute frenzy. I am also a fan of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Fire, and Nancy Werlin's Impossible. While it is not recent, my all-time favorite book is the fantasy title A Wrinkle in Time. I still reread it every few years, and look forward to reading it with my daughter when she is older.

What's your favorite customer comment/feedback?
This hand-written letter from an 8 year-old fan made everyone on staff swell with joy:

Dear Where the sidewalk ends bookstore,
Thank you for your great business. I live in Chicago, and I am required to read books for 3rd grade, and the book I was looking for was not there. But, when I saw your bookstore on the Chatham map, I was determined to run in there and ask if you had Good Greif Third Grade. And you did. I really love your bookstore. I think that it is the best bookstore I have ever been to. I think you should run that bookstore for years. Decades. Centuries. When I am old enough, I would love to work there. It is really a nice place. Also, in the Rainbow Magic section, I saw The Funday Fairies. I can't find those probably anywhere in Illinois. I am in Chicago now, but when I come back to Massachusetts I'll tell my parents to go to Chatham and to that bookstore. I'll probably come back in the summer. Thank you again. Kindest wishes, G.

What a wonderful testimony! Thanks again, Caitlin!

Where the Sidewalk Ends
432 Main Street
Chatham, MA
(508) 945-0499
Current Mood: accomplished
amarisglassstirlingbennett on December 4th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
I love that letter! I would love to get a letter from him or her...you know, when my someday-books come out...someday.

great interview, Marissa! Makes me want to go to Cape Cod.
Devadeva_fagan on December 4th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
What an adorable bookstore! Thank you Marissa and Caitlin!