“We’re here for five-year-olds, grandmas, and everyone in between”: Community outreach at Bookmans, Arizona, Part 2

The Cat in the Hat at Bookmans, Arizona

“We’re here for five-year-olds, grandmas, and everyone in between.”

For Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Arizona, community outreach is more than just being a good corporate citizen – it also makes great business sense.

Last time on the blog I spoke with Bookmans Marketing Director Sheila Kressler-Crowley about their recent Schools Challenge. It’s just one element of a fun, creative vision of community partnership which stretches from sponsoring a rollerderby team to themed events aimed at teens (a Scott Pilgrim dating night) and toddlers (Dr. Seuss storytelling sessions, pictured above).

Scott Pilgrim materials from a Bookmans Valentine's Date Night
 Scott Pilgrim themed materials are prepared for comic-book fans ready to “hit love where it hurts”.

Sheila attributes the Bookmans spirit to founder Bob Oldfather, who took over his father’s second-hand bookstore in 1976.

“Bob’s like the anti-retailer,” says Sheila. “Dogs are allowed in, bringing your own food is encouraged. The stores are meant to be a real cool place to hang out – and it just so happens we also sell stuff here.”

When Zoe Toft led me to discover Bookmans on Twitter, their Online Content Co-ordinator Rebecca Ballender managed to explain the store’s philosophy well within the 140-character limit: “Ads are fine, but we’d rather hang out with our friends.”

The chain’s business model, built on buying and selling used goods, benefits from a community outreach approach to marketing.

As Sheila says, ““Working in the used media trade, we buy from and sell to everyone.  What we have on our shelves is a direct reflection of what the community brings in. With 250 employees and a bottom line to fulfil, we’d be foolish not to give back to them!”

For Sheila, a former radio DJ who joined the team in a community role six years ago, Bookmans’ values chime well with her belief in servant leadership – a management approach which emphasises humility and duty to others.

“I remember finding a 1947 Girl Scout handbook in one of our stores,” she told me over the phone last week. “It had belonged to a girl who was also called Sheila, and she’d lovingly filled it in over the years. All those aspirations – her dedication and love for her troop – it spoke to my own belief in community service.”

From Australian mining companies to British media distributors, I’ve seen many occasions where compassion, creativity and business sense coincide – but Bookmans stands out as a retailer who has turned a trade in used books into a bastion of progressive values at the heart of their community. Find out more at their website.

All images (c) Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, via Bookmans’ Flickr Photostream.

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