When I was growing up, my town bookstore was an integral part of our community’s identity. The good news is that despite closing during the pandemic, local bookstores seem to be rebounding.
I recently met Meg Flynn and Emily Welch, two entrepreneurial moms living in southern Connecticut, who are making their own impact by opening Black Rock Books CT “to bridge the generational gaps in our community.”
I am consistently surprised by the generosity of spirit in our community and beyond. It feels good to know that there are people rooting for us who want this business to succeed.
They also saw a need for more local family-friendly spaces that they could take their children to. Intrigued with their mission and passion, I wanted to find out more from these changemakers about their venture. Additionally, I asked for and received four Fall Book Picks that they highly recommend.
Meet these entrepreneurial moms and check out their Fall Book Picks below.
EYE: Moms are always busy and going in so many different directions. Why did you decide to open a bookstore?
MEG: Why not? I think moms in particular are great candidates to be small business owners because we are so busy. We know how to multitask; the importance of delegating; and how to wear multiple hats at once. I also think that we are practicing what we preach.
We tell our children to follow their dreams and that they can be anything. Hopefully they can use our experience as a roadmap for dreams of their own.
EMILY: A bookstore can be many things at once. It’s a place to shop for the newest release; to buy a unique gift for a neighbor; to sit and read a book to a child. But it’s also a place to breathe, relax, listen, discuss, commune…maybe even dance! It was really about a personal desire to build a space where all those things could happen and investing in this neighborhood.
There’s so much potential here. In a place like Black Rock, we can find great food, fantastic music and events, a stunning coastline, a great cup of coffee and the most delicious croissants and cookies you’ve ever tasted, all within a three-mile radius. It just made sense to add in a bookstore.
EYE: Have books always been an important part of your lives?
MEG: I’m a lifelong reader. I grew up down the street from my town’s public library, and I visited often. I have always enjoyed losing hours in a book and feeling invested in a character’s story. Like many millennials, Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood, but I also loved anything by Gail Carson Levine, Madeleine L’Engle, Phillip Pullman…the list could go on.
As an adult, I drifted more towards historical fiction and novels (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin), but recently I am diving back into the genre of sci-fi and fantasy that I loved so much as a kid (Sarah J Maas, N.K. Jemison).
EMILY: I am one of those people who reads multiple books at once. It depends on my mood. Depending on the subject and how impacted I am by the book, at times I find it hard to move onto the next. So although I love to read and have since I was a child, I can’t say I do it quickly! I grew up reading Nancy Drew – she was my fictional female idol and such a boss.
I remember throughout college and after, I’d pivot between Carl Hiassen, Stiegg Larsson and Wally Lamb (again, to satisfy the mood). Recently, I’ve found self improvement books by James Clear and Mark Manson extremely helpful and effective while also enjoying the Sarah J Maas fantasy fiction series.
EYE: How do you balance your store obligations and kids’ obligations?
MEG: I think the same as any working parent; we take it day by day and week by week. Emily and I are constantly checking in with each other about scheduling and most importantly, we ask for help. We have two incredible booksellers that work for us, Abby and Christina, and they help fill in the gaps when we are unavailable. My husband Casey has been incredibly supportive and always pitches in to take the kids.
EMILY: That said, it can become overwhelming and it helps that we don’t do it alone. We have an incredible network of friends and family who help out wherever they can. It also helps that this is a bookstore and the kids can be involved. Storytime at the Farmers’ Market has been a highlight for my daughter and me.
It’s work AND play AND we get to do it together. But I believe we stay balanced because Meg and I understand each other’s responsibilities. We’re both moms and we have families, jobs and school studies that demand time and attention.
We make things work by staying open, advocating for ourselves when we feel like we need a break and communicating often and honestly.
EYE: What do you want customers to know?
MEG: I want customers to know that we will try our best to find the perfect book for them. I received amazing feedback from a customer who bought a copy of The Classroom Behavior Manual by Scott Ervin, which I purchased for our seasonal back to school table. He is in his second year of teaching and it helped him get a handle on discipline in the classroom.
I was so grateful that he came back in to tell me this, and now he’s become a regular customer. I think this also ties into our community impact. Books, even fiction, contain knowledge that has the power to change lives.
EMILY: While we strive to have something for everyone, we won’t have everything. So it’s important our customers know that we will do everything we can to find the book they’re looking for and our special orders arrive quickly. It’s also helpful that they know they can support us by getting their audiobooks from libro.fm, shopping at bookshop.org and attending our monthly events.
EYE: What were your biggest hurdles?
MEG: It’s learning everything in real time; from how to approach marketing, to making our best guess on which books to carry in the store. There is not a moment to pause and say, “Phew! We got it,” because it’s a moving target.
EMILY: Quickbooks, a cloud-based accounting software. Period. The end.
EYE: Have you been surprised by anything in this endeavor so far?
MEG: I am consistently surprised by the generosity of spirit in our community and beyond. It feels good to know there are people rooting for us who want this business to succeed. I am also surprised that I still find time to read books at the end of the day!
EMILY: I’ve been blown away by how far people will go to visit a new bookstore. It’s been a wonderful surprise and warms my heart to know that this little shop is a travel destination for many of our visitors.
EYE: Do you have advice for entrepreneurs who have similar dreams?
MEG: Starting a business is not without its ups and downs. I think accept that you will make mistakes. You will have to pivot and ask a lot of questions. Thinking outside the box will be your biggest asset as well.
EMILY: Try not to panic. Take time to go for a walk or to write and sort out your thoughts and ideas. Make sure to take care of your mind and body as you build your business. Trust the process. And it’s OK to get uncomfortable—that’s where the good stuff happens.
EYE: What are the next steps for Black Rock Books CT?
MEG: Keep going, keep growing! I would love to add more shelves to the store, expand our selection to be able to better highlight brand-new fiction and add more room to carry multiple fantasy series.
EMILY: We have so many exciting events and collaborations coming up. I’m excited to see how it all goes plus what the holiday season will bring!
EYE: We appreciate your time and insights, Meg and Emily. TWE wishes you nothing short of success with your Black Rock Books CT store.
Many thanks for your Fall Book Picks we can share with our readers!
FALL BOOK PICKS FOR ADULTS
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts, by Kate Racculia
A billionaire dies suddenly, leaving behind an immersive treasure hunt around the city of Boston. Participants compete for a portion of the eccentric man’s fortune, and his collection of haunted ephemera.
Tuesday Mooney is the ideal contestant. She researches secrets for a living, and growing up in Salem, MA predisposed her to all things spooky. However, the hunt dredges up ghosts, past present and future. This book is an appropriate seasonal read with enough mystery left for you to form your own opinion on whether the ghosts are real.
The Invisible Hour, by Alice Hoffman
The newest book by the author of Practical Magic, fall’s favorite book turned movie. Ivy is emotionally neglected by her wealthy parents. When she unexpectedly falls pregnant, she escapes to a community of idealists that calls themselves “The Farm”.
All is not what it seems, however, and she and her daughter will have to fight to regain their freedom first through books, and then through action, with a healthy dose of magic. It’s a cozy, atmospheric read that may have you falling in love with long-dead authors. Pair with a reread of The Scarlet Letter for the full experience.
FALL BOOK PICKS FOR CHILDREN
Sweep, by Louise Greig (Ages 4-8)
Ed is in a bad mood. It begins as something small, but soon grows larger and larger, affecting everyone and everything around him. As Ed gets swept away by his bad mood, he begins to wonder if he is taking things too far. But then, a new wind whips up, and Ed is able to see that it’s never too late to turn a bad mood around.
Set to the backdrop of autumn, kids will enjoy finding Ed and among the piles of leaves (hint: look for the dog and cat on each page!). Parents and caregivers can use Sweep as a conversation starter to talk with kids about emotional regulation, and the power of choosing to control our feelings, rather than be controlled by them.
Witches of Brooklyn: Spell of a Time, by Sophie Escabasse
The newest addition to the Witches of Brooklyn graphic novel series is out, just in time for spooky season! For those new to the series, main character Effie is taken to live with her aunt and her partner in Brooklyn following her mother’s death.
The 11-year old soon discovers that her aunts are witches, and the adventure begins! The series incorporates fun, fantasy, and magic; perfect to read around Halloween without being too scary for young readers.
Happy Fall Reading!
Facebook: Black Rock Books
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