Raven Book Store sees more foot traffic in its new home on Mass Street. | News, Sports, Jobs

photo by: Chad Lawhorn

Owner Danny Caine is pictured in The Raven’s new children’s books section. The children’s section of the new store is significantly larger than that of the old store.

Perhaps you are one of the slew of people who moved to town earlier this month. If so, you should feel bad if you still have boxes to unpack. Danny Caine and his team at The Raven Book Store recently unboxed 13,000 books in three and a half days.

Of course, they’ve also been thinking about how to pull off this feat for about a year.

On August 20, 2020, Caine signed the Letter of Intent to relocate Lawrence’s oldest independent bookstore from its Seventh Street location to a prime Massachusetts Street location. The Raven has completed its move to 809 Massachusetts Street in recent days. It had been at its 6 E. Seventh Street location since its founding in 1987, said Caine, owner of the store since 2017.

“Overall, it was a slow and frustrating process,” Cain said of the entire project, which he had at one point planned to be completed in the spring. “But it was also a lot of fun.”

A little dusty too. The project involved a ton of construction work. If you remember, the space at 809 Massachusetts was previously home to Blade & Timber, an ax throwing entertainment facility. This business was however freed after the building caught fire in October 2019.

The interior was a complete gut job, but Caine could imagine what it could be. When we first announced The Raven’s impending move in October, Caine told me the goal was to have a nice bookstore that would get people to “immediately pull out their cellphones to take a picture.”

The final product includes a restored pewter ceiling, newly finished hardwood floors, brightly colored shelves, and a large display case with old-fashioned lettering in the shape of gold leaf proclaiming ‘fiction, poetry, mystery’ throughout. inside.

Cats too. No, the front window doesn’t proclaim it, but surely everyone knows the Raven’s felines. If you haven’t been familiar with longtime pets hopefully you take a look at where you sit or else you might come across one of them the wrong way.

The Raven’s new design features several nooks and crannies that are meant to be sitting areas where people can quietly leaf through a book they are considering buying. But you will have to beat the cats on the spot. They frequently use the seats not only to think about taking a nap, but to actually do it.

Still, customers make good use of the space. The occasional seating, wider aisles, and other such details were a big part of Caine’s vision for the new space.

“We really wanted it to be more comfortable for people to navigate,” Caine said.

The bookstore’s retail space is approximately 50% larger than The Raven’s former space on Seventh Street. The children’s section is one of the areas that has received the greatest expansion.

The entire store is double the size of the old Seventh Street location, but a good chunk of the space is back office work areas, which have grown much larger since the pandemic.

This is because online book sales have become an important part of The Raven’s business model. During parts of the pandemic, 100% of sales were made online, with the bookstore shutting down its retail space to the public due to COVID concerns. Now, with the reopening of the retail space, online sales represent 20-30% of The Raven’s revenue. Before the pandemic, online sales were around 1%.

Caine never sees online sales revert to what they were before the pandemic. On the flip side, he said he’s not trying to start a business where selling to people outside of Lawrence becomes the main business.

“We will always strive to be the best bookstore for Lawrence,” Caine said. “But if that message resonates outside of Lawrence, so is it.”

Caine, however, said he was very excited to see more activity in the current store. The move to Massachusetts Street – even though the old store was less than half a block from Massachusetts – made a huge difference in the amount of foot traffic in the store. Caine said there are many times on weekends when foot traffic in the store has doubled.

While concerns about COVID remain, the return of people to the store has been exciting, he said.

“In some ways, it’s easier and a lot more natural to sell books in person,” Caine said. “We’ve all entered into selling books in a person-to-person environment. We love to connect with the community, and it’s a much more gracious thing to do in person.

Caine said he’s not sure when The Raven will resume hosting in-store events, like book readings. There is a strong desire to resume these events, but it is not clear whether the store will schedule any for 2021, he said.

But The Raven is hosting a few outdoor events offsite as part of its grand opening celebration. Kansas author Sarah Smarsh, author of the memoir “Heartland,” will be featured at a paid event at 7pm on September 7 in an outdoor space at the Cider Gallery in the East Lawrence Warehouse Arts District.

The Raven is also planning to host a 7 p.m. poetry reading on September 10 at Watson Park, as well as several virtual events to be held throughout the week.



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