Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nantucket bookstore catches ironic financial breeze, outruns gale of Googlenomics

As many readers, journalists, authors, newspapers, publishing companies, booksellers, and libraries struggle to weather the new economics of the online world created by technological behemoths like Google and Amazon, one quaint, independent bookstore down on the island of Nantucket, off the coast of Cape Cod, has caught an ironic financial breeze and managed to outrun the destructive gale of Googlenomics.

Founded in 1968 by retired Madison Avenue graphic artist Henry Mitchell Havemeyer and his wife, Mary Allen, Mitchell’s Book Corner, a landmark located in a historic building at 54 Main Street, is a full service bookstore that stocks titles in all subject areas and offers the most extensive selection of books about Nantucket, the whaling industry, and the island’s genealogy.

In 1978, the Havemeyer’s daughter, Mimi Havemeyer Beman, whose maternal uncle was once president of the Doubleday Book Company, assumed stewardship of Mitchell's Book Corner and continued to operate it for the next 30 years. In January 2008, Beman sold the historic building in which the bookstore resides for $3.2 million to ReMain 54 LLC, a real estate entity controlled by a woman named Wendy Schmidt. Schmidt, a summer resident of Nantucket and president of the Schmidt Family Foundation of Palo Alto, California, is married to Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt.

While purchasing the historic building at 54 Main Street, Wendy Schmidt also struck a legal agreement with two employees of Mitchell’s Book Corner, Mary Jennings and Lucretia Voigt, to operate the bookstore. According to an article in the August 31, 2008, issue of The Boston Globe newspaper, Jennings and Voigt “rent the space at significantly below-market rates, and they are forbidden, by contract, to ever move the store. Schmidt retains ownership of the Mitchell's name, but the two operators essentially own the business and all its inventory and are solely responsible for its profit and loss.”

In an article in the January 9, 2008, issue of The Nantucket Independent newspaper, Wendy Schmidt was quoted as stating in a press release: "Nantucket is fortunate to have many vibrant local businesses. Local opinion leaders have pointed out the importance
of buying local. They have noted that a dollar spent at a Nantucket business like Mitchell's returns about 45 cents to the island's economy and benefits the community through a multiplier effect.
We are pleased to help make sure a successful, established business like Mitchell's has a home on Main Street where it will continue to contribute to our community and Nantucket's downtown retail environment."

The same Nantucket newspaper article quoted former bookstore owner Mimi Havemeyer Beman as saying: “I am so pleased that
the bookstore can stay. Being in that spot so long and being so successful there worked against me for selling the building. To
see the building go to other than the bookstore made buyers of the building reluctant because they'd have to kick the bookstore out to put in another business. It was such an anchor on Main Street. [...]
I was facing giant repairs and the bookstore doesn't make enough,
so this is ideal because you still have the bookstore with the same mission and you have someone treating the building with tender loving care, bringing it into the 21st century and preserving the character of Nantucket architecture."

And Mary Jennings, one of the bookstore’s new owners, was quoted as saying: "Having the support of the community means so much to us. It's an incredible opportunity. It's so important that Main Street keep its backbones that are so important to the community. It would have been a shame if something had happened to Mitchell's. Nantucket is lucky in a sense; independent bookstores are a dying breed all over the country. It's very important that they stick around, discovering new authors, keeping the quality of literature high and keeping people reading."

Today, Mitchell’s Corner Bookstore is located in temporary quarters while the historic building at 54 Main Street undergoes a green renovation, including the addition of a new second floor for the bookstore. Check out this six-minute video in which Mary Jennings and Wendy Schmidt discuss the importance of the green renovation and local book stores to Nantucket's community.

Interested in reading some books about Nantucket? Start with these 341 books, compliments of Google's online digital library!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Selling Planet Earth in Exchange for a Utopia? What’s the Catch?

Humans sold planet Earth for peace, but little did they know peace would come at such a high cost.

A long time ago, Humanity sold planet Earth to a group called the Evers in order to gain peace and a virtual utopia for themselves and for future generations. However, the cost of this paradise turns out to be too much for some to deal with and the humans soon find themselves ruled cruelly by the very beings who offered them salvation and at one point given them so much hope.

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Will man give up youth and perfect health to live in the past? And will John take the chance of restoring Earth to its former state even though there’s a good chance his life-threatening disease can return?

Publisher’s Web site: