“I am so incredibly thankful to my awesome team for helping Blue House Books thrive. Casey and Kelsey have been an invaluable addition to the Blue House Books team – we wouldn’t be as successful as it is without them. I am so fortunate to have these passionate and supportive ladies by my side.“ – Samantha Jacquest
Q. In September, you took over your new location at 5915 Sixth Ave-A, what inspired the change?
A. I had been considering looking into a larger location since early Spring this year. While I absolutely loved my cozy little shop, things got challenging when I would hold events and the checkout line would wrap around the entire store and leave no room for browsing. It got really cramped really quickly in there! I knew I would need a larger space if I wanted to continue holding events and continue growing my customer base, so the search began!
I am so fortunate to have found an amazing and supportive landlord. Neil completely renovated the storefront and all I had to do was move in my fixtures and of course the books! There were some unfortunate delays with the bookcases, and I only had two and a half days to get the store set up and ready to open, but with my amazing family and staff, we got it done! Opening day was incredible and I’m so excited to share the space with everyone.
Q. How did Blue House Books begin?
A. Blue House Books started in August 2017 as a pop-up store selling used books. I would set up at community events and local businesses and sell books that were donated to me. I connected with Kenosha Creative Space who hosted many of their own pop-up arts events, so it was a perfect combination. In October 2019, I expanded and became a ‘micro bookstore,’ open five days a week in a shared space in the Kenosha Creative Space building–nights and weekends only because I was still working a full-time job. And then of course, COVID hit, and I became a pickup and delivery service. The residents of Kenosha did such an amazing job making sure their small businesses were supported during that difficult year, and I was actually able to expand again! In 2020, I opened my first brick-and-mortar location at 5615 7th Ave in Downtown Kenosha. And now here we are, a year later, in a new and bigger store!
Q. How did you decided to to get into the book selling business?
A. I earned my Master of the Arts degree in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University in the UK in 2016. When I got back home, I was really struggling to find a job in my field. A bookstore was the perfect way to blend my desire to stay in town, my education, my love for stories, and my love for people! I am so incredibly thankful that I had friends advising me to take things slow, as I have never been a business-minded person and truly had no idea what I was doing. I never in my life imagined I would be an entrepreneur! With the help of a ton of local resources and mentors, I took the plunge!
Q. How did you come up with the name Blue House Books?
A. When I was trying to think of a name for the store, I wanted to make sure it represented a cozy and welcoming space, where anyone would feel welcome and all were accepted. That immediately made me think of my childhood home. We were always the place where family and friends gathered and everyone felt at home. When my nephew was a baby, he would call Nana and Papa’s house his blue house, so that’s where Blue House Books came from!
Q. What kind of books does Blue House Books specialize in?
A. We try to carry a little bit of everything, but there are definitely some areas that are very popular with our customers, such as adult fantasy and thriller titles, and children’s books. If we don’t have it in the store, we can most likely order it for you!
Q. Why are indie book stores relevant in todays internet age?
A. Independent bookstores are so important for many reasons. We do so much more than just sell you a product. We host book clubs to make reading a social activity, we host story times for kids to promote literacy and a love for reading, we bring authors in to meet readers, we collaborate with other local businesses to make our Downtown a fun destination. Indie bookstores bring culture and passion to their communities. You just don’t get the same experience buying from a corporate giant.
Q. How has owing Blue House Books changed your life?
A. In so many ways! I have met the most amazing people as an indie bookstore owner, from the passionate readers in my community, to the amazing business owners in town, to other bookstore owners around the world. This is truly a passion industry, and there’s no better place to be than surrounded by books every day.
Q. How do you decide what books to carry?
A. There are a few strategies to choosing my inventory. The number one method is knowing my customers and predicting what books they may want to read. I have a customer in mind for every item I carry at Blue House Books. I also get wonderful recommendations from my industry, including other booksellers, publishing sales reps, and industry groups, such as the American Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. I also do a ton of research myself, and my staff and customers are wonderful at helping with recommendations.
Q. What are your goals for Blue House Books?
A. Blue House Books has already come so far, but I still have a ton of plans for the future. I’m sure I’ll be happy in our new location for a few years, but I think I can see one more expansion in our distant future, with a cafe and larger event space. I also hope to utilize my education and develop a publishing branch of the company. My hope is to refresh my knowledge of the industry by becoming involved with a publishing company, then eventually start my own.
Q. What is your personal reading preferences?
A. I have been trying really hard to read a little bit of everything so that I’m staying relevant with book trends, but fantasy is definitely my favorite genre. I also love literary fiction, stories that are extremely impactful and could even change someone’s life. I have also been finding a lot of joy in reading fiction for middle grade readers–it’s just so fun!
Q. What book would you like to see made into a movie?
A. This is a tough question, because at Blue House Books, our philosophy is that the book is always better. But there have been some decent adaptations. As long as it is done well, I would love to see Uprooted by Naomi Novik adapted into a movie. It’s one of my favorite fantasy novels and the world Novik creates seems so interesting and it’s one of my absolute favorite story lines.
Q. Can you tell us about some of the events you do in store?
A. Some of my favorite events are hosting authors. We have a ton of talented writers right here in Southeastern Wisconsin, and even more within a few hours’ drive. We have a few fantastic launch parties coming up this fall, winter, and spring with Greta Kelly, Meg Bonney, and Lorelei Savaryn. Be sure to check our website and Facebook or details! We also host regular book club meetings, children’s story times, and we hope to soon launch classes that collaborate with other local businesses, such as cooking classes, wine tastings, essential oil workshops, and more!
I love being behind the scenes of the book world. It’s so much fun to work with authors and publishers and having the knowledge and resources to recommend great books.
Q. What is the key to all your success of Blue House Books?
A. One of the most common pieces of feedback I receive is that people absolutely love the environment at Blue House Books, from our team of book nerds always ready to make a recommendation and geek out over the newest releases, to the cozy atmosphere complete with comfy chairs, countless plants, fresh flowers, and of course, countless books. Blue House Books is a place people want to spend time truly relaxing and embracing the comfort of a story. My hope is that it’s a place where everyone feels welcome, accepted, and represented.
I have seen friendships begin and blossom in my store. I have seen relationships develop. I have seen people who normally feel lonely find a friend in a stranger who loves the same books. It truly is a magical place.
Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself when your not consumed by running your store?
A. When not at Blue House Books, I’m usually at one of my many family functions or supporting other local businesses! I sincerely love our downtown community and often spend my free time with my business neighbors. I also love taking day trips whenever possible to Milwaukee, Chicago, and all the adorable cities and towns in between.
Blue House Books in located at 5915 Sixth Avenue A.
Visit their website at blue-house-books.com
Like BHB on Facebook by clicking here!
Q&A & photos by Donny Stancato
Edited by Jason Hedman
(This Q&A first appeared in the Downtown Kenosha Magazine Vol. 14 #3 2021)
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