SOUTH SHORE ENTREPRENEUR: Kingston book store mixes arts and letters
Gary Higgins/The Patriot Ledger
Erik and Dawn Christensen opened a book store called Book Shack at The Independence Mall in Kingston in a space previously occupied by Borders.
In 2011, as many Americans continued to transition from hard-copy books to e-readers and tablets, two local residents took a risk and opened Book Shack, a discount bookstore in Kingston.
Erik Christensen and his brother-in-law Jason Zutaut saw opportunity in a 22,000-square-foot space at Independence Mall. The store, which opened two years ago, now houses 100,000 books and employs 24 people in full and part-time roles.
They also invested in a smaller space in Taunton, which has eight employees.
Their flagship store in Kingston replaced a 20-year-old Borders franchise after the national bookstore company closed its doors. Their Taunton location replaced a Borders Express, which was shut down the same year.
But the pair wasn’t overly discouraged by the struggles of other stores in the same business.
Their vision of an affordable bookstore also included space for theater productions, live music and book readings. And if you ask Christensen, it’s also what’s kept them in business so far.
“The bookstore is a struggling business,” Christensen said. “But our slogan is ‘Books and More.’ The ‘more’ is what draws people here.”
To celebrate surviving and thriving, the Book Shack is celebrating its second anniversary with a series of live events and performances through December.
Christensen, who holds a master’s degree in business administration from Johnson and Wales University, enjoys the challenges that come along with running his own business.
As founder and president of Loretta LaRoche Productions, he also brings 20 years of experience in public relations to Book Shack. (Author, speaker and Patriot Ledger columnist LaRoche is his mother.) His wife, Dawn, whom he calls a “social media guru,” helps him take care of marketing and promotion.
Zutaut, a book buyer who also owns Book Enterprises in Fall River, is the brains of the book side of the business.
At any given time, Book Shack’s Kingston location has 11,000 titles for sale, including the nation’s 50 best-selling books, Christensen said.
The space boasts a small theater, an eating area that sells food and beverages during events, comfortable seating, a children’s area, and plenty of space to browse new, used and bargain books.
Christensen has even secured a wine and beer license, which allowed him to host a book and brew music festival earlier this year.
“For me, the intrigue was in making it a venue,” Christensen said. “We treat ourselves as a destination here.”
Recent events hosted at the Book Shack include author readings, comedy shows and psychic readings. While the business sets itself apart from other bookstores by offering entertainment, it also offers deals that rival those found on Amazon and other online bookstores.