When one shops at a small business, it helps the local economy and the environment. Interest in indie bookstores is thriving as small businesses, according to Statista 2023. After a decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of independent bookstores in the United States will reach an all-time high in 2023 at 2,599, reports Statista.
Two of those indie bookstores are local and offer brick-and-mortar locations: A Thousand Stories in Herndon, which opened on Small Business Saturday 2022, and Fonts & Gifts in McLean, which welcomed shoppers on Small Business Saturday 2023 and will host its grand opening this week.
Michelle Ratto and Beth Luke are co-owners of A Thousand Stories. They celebrated their bookstore's first birthday with Small Business Saturday, 2023. "We are so grateful for our customers who pay attention to Small Business Saturday," Luke said. "Because it isn't a thing until the customers say it is."
According to Luke, she and Ratto's vision of opening a bookstore and offering a handpicked selection of books or presents became a reality when a massive pallet of books arrived at 750 Center Street, and they began arranging them on the shelves. The legitimacy of a brick-and-mortar business, with a physical presence and face-to-face interaction, fosters trust with its service.
A Thousand Stories partners with Arts Herndon and is the town's only bookstore. The shop is located inside the 750 Center Street building and has become highly recognized in its first year for events, author book signings, storytimes, and other activities.
Like A Thousand Stories, Fonts Books & Gifts is McLean's only independent bookshop. Fonts & Gifts offers a handpicked collection of new books for all ages, gifts, journaling resources, candles, "dry" spirits and non-alcoholic beer, greeting cards, stickers, and more, according to store owner Amber Taylor,
"Many people tell us how excited they are that we are here and that the community has a bookstore and a place to gather as readers," Taylor said.
Asked about the name of her bookstore, Taylor explained that she and her daughter were discussing their favorite fonts when they came up with the name. A short time later, Taylor discovered a remark by early 20th-century editor Beatrice Warde, that fonts "are the clothes that words wear."
"’Ahh, that's it,’ I thought," Taylor said.
At 6262 Old Dominion Dr., Suite B in McLean, Taylor said that the Chesterbrook Plaza has undergone improvements and new stores are opening. "It was one of the places we looked at, and I'm glad we did."
On Small Business Saturday 2023, Taylor received many visitors, she said. Asked what's next, Taylor, who previously worked at an Arlington bookshop, revealed that she will expand into author readings and community events in January and February.
Taylor lauded her five-person staff, adding that they all read differently. As a result, diverse experiences add variation to the curated choices.
"We have a nice nonfiction section that we're still growing; lots and lots of fiction, mystery, and science fantasy — quite a bit of young adult books and something for children of all ages," she said.
As many as one million books are published each year, all available online. Taylor said coming into a brick-and-mortar store like hers, where readers can trust the staff and buyers to pick out quality books, helps readers get what they're looking for.
"Often, they don’t know what they want until they get in and discover something new," said Taylor. You can’t do that online.