In the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’, small bookstore owner Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) shrugs off the threat of a big format bookstore opening nearby, saying, “It has nothing to do with us. It's big, impersonal, overstocked and full of ignorant salespeople.”
But, despite her mom ‘n’ pop approach to her store her loyal customers all but abandon her totally in favour of the glitzy alternative and Kelly shuts her store.
Deep in Cox Town is someone who might tell that story in reverse. It’s a small format bookstore. Lightroom—a children’s bookstore on Gover Road, (a little lane off Wheeler Road)—owned by Aasthi Mudnani, a former Explocity staffer (writer) and outreach programmer.
Mudnani is set to bring back to the community a business that is founded on honesty of purpose and the old-fashoned value that a good business is one that cares.
To this end, Lightroom’s inventory is different purely in terms of the kind of books they have. The store houses a selection of books for children, handpicked by the owner herself.
Mudnani calls the store Lightroom simply because she believes that books bring light to childrens’ lives. The fact that the store is so well lit naturally, adds to the essence of the name. “Our space has fantastic natural light and the day we walked in it felt like the right name,” she said.
“Opening this store has been an adventurous foray for me,” she said. "A bookstore has been in the dreaming and thinking for over seven years – since my oldest daughter was born and we could not find good children’s books at many of the shops that were around. My husband and I have always liked children’s books and we would go hunting for them through the stacks of used books at second hand bookstores" she explained.
The collection at the store caters to kids between ages 1 and 16. Eventually, the collection will include the works of writer-illustrators such as Bruno Munari, Allen Say, Lois Ehlert and Taro Gomi.
A child that enters this store can expect lot of fun, beautifully written and illustrated books, picture books as well as fiction and non-fiction. “Almost every book at this store has been chosen with care. Either based on reviews, recommendations from friends or if I’ve read them myself,” said Mudnani. “We have also had quite a few customers of late who do not have children but are looking at books from a design and illustration perspective. And we welcome everyone to sit, browse, read for as long as they want to,” she added.
But in this digital age, are kids still interested in books?
"Bookstores are and should continue to be important spaces in any urban landscape. The internet does not have the advantage of personal service, recommendation, and one never knows how a books looks and feels, until you get it. If you are looking for something specific it is okay but when you need to just browse and find unknown authors, books etc, bookstores are incomparable,” she responded.
“Also most stores now have strong outreach programmes – storytelling sessions, book launches, readings, workshops, thus occupying an important space in a city as hubs of creativity and discussion,” she continued.
Like any other business, Mudnani’s bookstore also has its fair share of obstacles. But competition is not one of them. “We are not really trying to compete with anybody,” she laughs. “And the store is too young to speak about market share and profit,” she added.
One of the hardest things the store faces, however, is sourcing books. “It is sometimes impossible to get all the books that we would like to have. A sales representative of one of the biggest publishing houses recently told me that he can assure me that 30 percent of the books we order will not come!” she explained.
Six months into business, Mudnani feels the store has slowly but definitely grown. She plans to host more events, storytelling sessions and workshops. Talking of profit, the bookstore is still too young to speak of market share and profit.
At a glance, the Lightroom is colourful and cozy. There is a children’s play area and comfy seats to sit back and read. And the store’s size is only an advantage. “The smallness also allows for wonderful, impromptu chats and more recommendations by people walking in,” said Mudnani.
And it’s the small things that make Lightroom unique.
“Walking in everyday and being surrounded by books. Seeing the excitement of children and parents when they walk in. People writing back to say how much they loved the books they bought and coming back for more!” she said happily.
You can visit Lightroom at 35 Wheeler Road Cross, Frazer Town.