Pair finds pleasure helping families connect with more than just books
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles profiling independent Kyrene Corridor businesses and their recipes for success. The series will feature members of Arizona Chain Reaction, a group of small-business owners who urge shoppers to ‘Think Independently, Buy Locally.’ Information about the group is available on the Web at www.AZCR.org.
By Matthew Garcia
Tucked away in a Kyrene Corridor strip mall, between some of the most active businesses in the area, rests a unique little bookstore, which, at no coincidence, is as humble as the family that operates it.
For five years Michael and Jennifer Karnes have owned and operated The Book Connection. While they admit they have been through some up and downs, the Karneses say they trust old-style, friendly values and their partnership as being the heart of their business success.
Wrangler News: How’s business?
Michael: This is the first year in five years that we’ve managed to grow every month.
WN: What have you done to boost growth?
Jennifer: We’ve changed our focus in the children’s section to wooden educational toys, which parents really like. We’ve beefed up some sections. But I believe the growth is related to our personal touch. Primarily, Michael and I run the store, it’s important to us to have an owner’s face behind the counter.
WN: So, The Book Connection must have a good relationship with its patrons?
Jennifer: I have costumers who come in and say ‘I need five books’. So I’ll give them books to read and they read everything I give. I have my group of faithful costumers, and Michael has a group as well.
WN: Who are your customers?
Michael: We have young families, and that segment is growing. We have senior retirees and winter visitors. And others that are difficult to categorize.
WN: The Book Connection rests directly next to one of the most prominent independent bookstores in the Valley, Changing Hands Bookstore. How does Changing Hands affect The Book Connection?
Michael: At first it was devastating, but as the years have gone on, Changing Hands has been an asset. Every time they have a major signing it attracts attention our way. If you look at what Changing Hands carries and what we carry, there’s not much overlap.
WN: Why did Karnes family choose to open a bookstore?
Jennifer: Michael wanted to start a business. We decided to open a business around a hobby that both of us were interested in. And we both like reading.
WN: How does the business partnership work?
Michael: It’s good partnership. I’m more of the experimental one. There’s no idea not worth exploring. Jennifer is more of the conservative, voice of reason. I think it’s important to have both qualities in a business.
Jennifer: Michael likes to float in the cloud a little bit. I would say I’m the calming effect in the business. But in our marriage it’s completely opposite.
WN: How long have you been married?
Michael: We’ve been married for 11 years.
WN: Do you have any children?
Jennifer: We have one five-year-old daughter. We bought the bookstore and had our daughter in the same year. That was a very difficult year. She grew up in the bookstore. In the front window we used to put a play pen with our daughter in it.
The Book Connection is located at 6434 S. McClintock Drive (southwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe) near Trader Joe’s, SteinMart and Changing Hands Book Store.
Information: (480) 820-2953.