In a landscape ever more populated and controlled by online retailers, one intrepid and brave book lover has entered the retail fray in Reston Town Center. Rachel Wood occupies a new location on Market Street with a charming, quirky collection of new releases and beloved, essential literary classics. Leslie Combemale of Small Business Support Sundays caught up with her to talk about her store “Scrawl Books”, and love of the written word.
LC: In a world where people are getting most of their books from Amazon, why do you think independent book stores are so important, and what made you want to open a store yourself?
RW: Independent bookstores are connected to their communities and a part of the local scene in a way that online retailers and large chains can never be. We respond to the interests of Reston and work with local schools, authors, community groups to host events and promote books that algorithms and national buyers miss.
When I moved to Reston 10 years ago we had two national chain bookstores and the used bookstore. This is a community of smart, engaged people who read a lot. Four years ago the second chain store closed. The community here was crying for a new bookstore. I was working in Arlington as a book buyer for the library. I started to think about what kind of bookstore I would open, and eventually the dream took over and I couldn't not do it.
LC: What is your first memory of a bookstore you loved, and what were some of your first favorite books as a kid?
RW: My family spent a week each year in Lakeside, Ohio on Lake Erie. My parents were in meetings all day and my sister and I were free to roam and play shuffleboard and mini-golf, eat ice cream and wander. There was a Cokesbuy Bookstore there then, that's now been replaced by an indie. I discovered Madeleine L'Engle in sixth grade and read just about everything she'd ever written that summer. Later on I worked for Cokesbury in Lakeside and Dayton. It was my first summer job.
LC: What books have stayed with you that you reread and why?
RW: I work so hard keeping up with new releases, I rarely get to go back and reread anything. Picture books, of course. They have to stand up to multiple readings because kids want to hear them again and again. I pull out old and new favorites for Friday morning storytime every week. Madlenka by Peter Sis follows a little girl around the world on her very own block in a diverse neighborhood, and this year's Geisel Medal Winner, Good Night Owl, is fun and funny. Owl takes apart his entire house looking for the source of a squeak.
LC: Why did you pick Reston Town Center for your store?
RW: Surveying the local scene and talking with indie bookstore experts we knew we needed to be where people spend time, near other retail with strong community ties. Reston Town Center is a true downtown. People live here, work here, and come in to dine and shop, and for events like the Fine Arts Festival and Taste of Reston.
LC: What is the method to your madness in terms of what books you focus on and carry in Scrawl Books? What can new customers expect when they come for a visit?
RW: We have a broad mix of new releases, classics, and favorites. We focus on diverse books to reflect our community and help people understand each other. I stay on top of what's being released, reviewed, promoted on the radio and TV. We have an amazing kids' section, because I was primarily a children's librarian, a great selection of world lit, and we're growing our SciFi and Graphic Novel collections, too, and expanding our nonfiction sections. We're adding to our travel and craft sections, and have some great science and making books that we brought in for the NoVa Maker Faire. I promise that you'll find more and more new titles each time you stop by.
LC: You’ve committed to doing events every Sunday. Can you talk a bit about some of your past events and what you’re looking forward to in the next few months?
RW: Local authors Terry Jennings and Ann Marie Stephens have stopped by to share their newest books this summer. We've also had drop-in programs like Stop in and Scrawl where people can get some writing done, whether it's a novel or a postcard. We have coffee from Pitango and pens and paper and tables ready for people to settle in for the afternoon. We'll be offering that once a month, plus more author visits, and an afternoon just for book groups to come in and get recommendations from us and each other.
LC: What are your favorite new releases for beach reads this summer?
RW: I just finished The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, which releases July 17. It's about a comic book artist who finds love and family secrets when she goes to take care of her aging grandmother. On my next trip, I'm taking Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams. She writes historical mystery/romance with great atmosphere. I'm also catching up on Ms Marvel 1-6, #7 is coming out on August 1, and finishing Al Franken's very funny Giant of the Senate.
Thanks, Rachel! I know i’ll be coming by to find some new favorites! Scrawl Books can be found on the web at http://www.scrawlbooks.com/ and their current hours of operation at their Reston Town Center location are:
Friday and Saturday 10-9
Welcome Scrawl Books and don’t forget to support indie bookstores and small business by stopping by this and every Sunday or whenever your passion for a new read strikes you