By Rachel Jabara
125 Water St, Boyne City, MI
My summer internship consists of coffee and a lot of books—I am manager and part-owner of Local Flavor, a freshly opened bookstore and café in Boyne City.My parents and I decided to take on this new venture after the previous bookstore liquidated unexpectedly, leaving a vacant spot on Boyne City’s main street and in the community as a whole. We all had retail experience, but had never been involved with a café or bookstore. Since my parents both have other jobs, I am largely responsible for day-to-day operations of Local Flavor, at least until I return to Albion.
Early on, we worked with a local sign maker and graphic designer to create our logo, which was our base for store colors, branded merchandise, and logo wear. The name “Local Flavor” was selected to appeal to locals and wannabes alike, to promote locally made products, and showcase local artists and musicians.
Our lease on the space began on April 13, so we spent a hectic month renovating the space: working on the wiring, plumbing and lighting; painting; installing coffee bar equipment, procuring inventory, and hiring and training staff. I made eight-hour round trips between Albion and Boyne City nearly every weekend to be part of the process.
I got the task of designing the coffee bar and check-out counter, one of the most crucial elements for work flow, productivity and customer service. I also got to experience the other side of the interview process, helping to hire store staff. Finding the employees with the right skills and experience proved to be more difficult than I had expected.
I wasn't a “coffee person” prior to this venture and my parents and I knew we required an employee with café experience, who could essentially train the rest of us. We found an applicant who was previously a barista, and she taught me everything there is to know about making coffee. Once I had the basics down I was able to develop new methods to speed up the entire process.
The core of Local Flavor's operations is in Anthology, a computer system specifically designed for booksellers. The training involved with this system is extensive and is constantly changing. Currently, I'm implementing and adapting the program to meet our unique needs. I am also teaching employees to use each component (ordering and receiving books, conducting special orders, adding used boo and non-book inventory, using the cash register, searching inventory, adding customer trade-in credit, etc.). Before the summer is over I will also be documenting all procedures, so everything will run smoothly after I return to Albion for my senior year.
Acquiring inventory was yet another learning experience. In a very short amount of time we collected “previously enjoyed books” from all over Michigan, started accounts with new book distributors and built up our non-book merchandise. I have dealt with all of our vendors, and am constantly researching new vendors to add to our inventory. We’ve also had issues with some vendors that I have had to resolve--yet another new experience. My other responsibilities include scheduling, merchandise selection and ordering, advertising, and bookkeeping using Quickbooks.
The store has been open for two months, and we continue to gain more and more merchandise to appeal to a wide range of customers. For me, this has been a dream job. I have always loved to read, and have enjoyed recommending books to customers. I’m so grateful for this experience, and I know Local Flavor will be successful thanks to all of the support our customers have given us so far.