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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

An Interview with Marcia Lawrence, owner of Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore

To celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, Meadowlark intern, Jessica Jackson, took a moment with Marcia Lawrence of Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore in Emporia.

JJ: What made you want to open Ellen Plumb's? What was your inspiration?

ML: I moved back to Emporia after an absence of nearly 40 years (I attended ESU in the 1970s). After a couple years, I was committed to staying and bought a house. I'd barely signed the papers on a mortgage when the announcement came that Town Crier (our former bookstore) was closing. Well, I can't live in a town without a bookstore! A group of community people met at my house for months, trying to find a way to bring a bookstore back to Emporia. Finally, I called a halt to the meetings, as business decisions like this cannot be made by committee. I'd been working closely with the Small Business Development Center at ESU on a business plan and financial projections--and this is not my first small business--so I truly understood the risks involved. After some deep reflection, I quit my job, invested all my personal savings, and opened Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore.

JJ: What makes Ellen Plumb's special?

ML: Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore is, by design and intent, a safe and comfortable place for book lovers of all kinds. The bookshop vision is to be community-oriented, to give back to the people of our town in promoting literacy and love of books. Of course, the other thing that sets Ellen Plumb's apart from most other indie bookstores is our Espresso Book Machine. We are thrilled that our machine has arrived in Emporia and is currently being refurbished by book-loving VekTek engineers. They will install the Espresso Book Machine at Ellen Plumb's in the coming weeks.

JJ: Ellen Plumb's has become a pivotal part of Emporia's community, not just the literary
Marcia Lawrence,
Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore
1122 Commercial St.
Emporia, Kansas
community, how do you feel about that?

ML: That's a very nice thing to hear! I grew up in a small Kansas town, and it took everybody to keep the community vital and thriving. That responsibility to cooperate, collaborate, and help the entire community thrive is practically part of my DNA.

JJ: Where do you see Ellen Plumb's in the future? Any plans?

ML: There's never a scarcity of dreams and plans for the bookshop! We are committed, this year, to growing and expanding genre selections, and hope to add about 25 percent more titles. We'll be adding to and refining some regular events. Naturally, there's a big push to roll out the first phase of the Espresso Book Machine program, with lots more to come in future years.

JJ: What about you?  What kind of books do you like to read? What is your reading life?

ML: These days, I spend many evenings reading ARCs (Advance Reading Copies). I work with our industry trade associations (American Booksellers Association, Midwest Independent Bookstore Association, IndieBound) to assess, critique, and promote new books--many by first-time authors. I always try to read the books written by authors who do book events at Ellen Plumb's. That's about once a week, so that's a lot of books in and of itself! Because of the imminent arrival of the Espresso Book Machine, I am revisiting some old favorites and a number of newer titles in the self-publishing, writing, and marketing/promotion genres. I particularly enjoy biography, history, and historical fiction. 

Meadowlark Author, Mike Graves, at Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore.

Meadowlark Author, Cheryl Unruh, at Ellen Plumb's City Bookstore.

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