MONROE, Conn. -- Ask Linda Devlin how she's managed to keep her independent children's bookstore, Linda's Story Time in business 17 years and she answers simply: "I sell the experience of discovering the books as much as I sell the books themselves."
"It's the way people are greeted when they walk in the door," she explained, "And the guidance in finding the book you want. My goal has always been to create a good feeling where customers feel comfortable, whether they are buying something or not."
Indeed, entering her Monroe store, feels like a blast to the past. There's no coffee bar. And no kindle offerings. Simply bookcases and thoughtfully put together displays of children's book, many with handwritten stickies attached to them with Devlin's handwriting describing the book and its audience. Think the kind of tasting notes you often find in a wine store.
Devlin says she's an avid reader -- and likes making it easier for her customers by letting them know the books she likes the most with her notes. "I read them all," she said, "from children's stories to young adult novels to adult books."
Right now she's big into historical fiction but says she's always discovering something new.
The Stratford resident is also a big listener, meaning she takes her customer's suggestions to heart. To that end, she now has a YouTube section as well as one devoted to Minecraft. "I'm always trying to come up with new ideas to keep the store fresh," she added. The store, in fact, recently hosted a midnight release party of the latest Harry Potter book which drew in 200 people.
While the heart of her store is for children ages 0 to 18, she also has a small adult section, all of which attracts both kids and their parents to her store. "So many people have formed friendships here," she said. "They end up having kids at the same school or are interested in the same genre of book and get to talking. A lot of customers tell me they would spend all day here. That, I think, is the secret to our success."
Linda's Story Time is 447 Monroe Tpke/Rt. 111, (203) 459-1579, www.lindasstorytime.com/ .