Reston Resident Plans to Open Indie Bookstore

by Karen Goff May 5, 2015 at 9:00 am 2,363 45 Comments

scrawl booksReston resident Rachel Wood loves books. She knows that Restonians love books too — and are still mourning Barnes & Noble’s departure in 2013.

That’s why Wood — who has a Master’s of Library Science and worked for more than 15 years in public libraries, including seven years for the Arlington Public Library system — plans to open an independent bookstore, Scrawl Books, later in 2015.

“After Barnes & Noble closed, I felt like there was a hole here,” says Wood. “And I know how to fill that hole.”

Rachel Wood/LinkedInWood and husband, Stephen Ahearn, a scientific consultant, moved to Reston from St. Paul nine years ago. They used to take their three children (twin boys, now 12, and a daughter, now 15), to a great children’s bookstore in Minnesota.

At the time, Reston had two large bookstores, Barnes & Noble at the Spectrum and Books-a-Million at Plaza America, as well as Reston’s Used Book Shop at Lake Anne Plaza.

“I thought ‘if there weren’t two bookstores, I could start a children’s bookstore’,” said Wood.

But, like so many dreams, there is reality. The kids began full-time school and Wood got a full-time job with ACL. She served many roles there, including children’s book buyer and materials division chief.

In the meantime, both Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million closed. This year, Wood got serious. She resigned from her job with ACPL and attended the American Booksellers Association’s Winter workshop on owning a bookstore, as well as a week-long program for prospective independent bookstore owners. She has also spent time with the children’s book buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.

“I came back, ran the numbers and figured out what I can do here,” says Wood.

Next comes securing retail space. Wood envisions Scrawl Books, which will carry books for all ages, as as cozy spot — likely less than 1,800 square feet and she is “open” as to location. She says she can buy books in tune with what the community wants, which is something that is often missing at chain stores or online.

She is already keeping lists of what she thinks will sell well in Reston. Other amenities, such as coffee, will depend on the space.

“There is not a shopping center in Reston without a Starbucks,” she said.

Wood said she is already about six months ahead of where she thought she would be at this point. If all goes according to plan, she would like to be operating by the end of the year.

Wood envisions a new spot for Reston, by Reston, patronized by Restonians and helping Restonians.

“Part of the dream is not just me selling books,” she said. “We hope to be partnering with schools and with Cornerstones.”

Photos Scrawl Books and LinkedIn

  • LAmeetsDC

    There’s no Starbucks in the Home Depot shopping center. There was once a coffee shop, but it’s long gone along with its highly uncomfortable furniture.

    One thing the entire Reston/Herndon area lacks is independent coffee shops. It’s quite disappointing.

    • Karen Goff

      I think she was being somewhat facetious about “every” place having a Starbucks rather than stating it as absolute fact. But I agree about a lack of indie coffee shops.

  • Joy Cynthia Ramsey Charles

    How wonderful!

  • Carole

    Stop nitpicking about Starbucks and thank God that someone is finally getting a bookstore back here in Reston! Thank you, Rachel!

  • Ming the Merciless

    She says she can buy books in tune with what the community wants, which
    is something that is often missing at chain stores or online.

    How is the community unable to buy the books it wants online? Amazon is among the reasons B&N and Books a Million were unsustainable.

    • LakeAnne Resident

      Ming the Practical, bookstores are more than a store that sells books (Politics and Prose, City Lights).

      • Ming the Merciless

        That was not the question I asked.

        B&N was (and where they still operate, remains) desperate to do “more than just sell books” – wouldn’t have surprised me to see them selling cigarettes and lottery tickets towards the end – but nonetheless its core business was not competitive.

        • Rena Corey

          Actually, B&N was doing fine here; they just messed up their contract negotiations and Container Store slipped in and grabbed the lease.

          • Ming the Merciless

            Uh huh. They seem to have “messed up” a lot of “contract negotiations” all over the country. You can believe that, if you wish, or believe that they deliberately reduced the number of physical stores and that profitability was a major factor when they decided which ones to close.

      • WhoIsJohnGalt

        Ultimately if the book store doesn’t sell items it doesn’t make money and if it doesn’t make money it can’t pay employees or the rent to stay open. If I don’t need something immediately I purchase it on Amazon. The only exceptions being clothing and food.

    • Annie Garnett

      You’re a bundle of sunshine.

      • Ming the Merciless

        Yes I am! I have never been happier since the advent of Amazon. Now I can get any book I want brought right to my door in a day or two, and I can shop for the best price amongst sellers all over the world. Compared to the bad old days of most places having, at best, a BDalton’s with whatever schlock bestsellers they decided to stock, and you had to go to a big city to find a good used bookstore, the current situation is simply awesome.

        That Amazon makes things difficult for brick-and-mortar independent bookstores is an acceptable trade-off from my frequent-book-buyer perspective.

        • Rena Corey

          Ming, no one will be making you patronize the new independent bookstore. Perhaps you will find you want to drop by to listen to a local author speak or to just hang out, or maybe you’d like to browse a bookstore that doesn’t stock “schlock bestsellers”; but, again, maybe that is not your cup of tea. As people have said numerous times, an independent serves community needs that Amazon doesn’t; so, even people who know about Amazon (as in, EVERYONE) will still patronize these establishments. Independents are a viable business model (particularly in affluent, well-educated communities), as evidenced by the continued existence of Politics and Prose and others; just because there is a possibility (as with any start-up business) that it could fail does not mean that it definitely will.

          • Ming the Merciless

            I buy more books in a week than you do in a year. I need no advice from you on how to do so or on what qualities are desirable in a bookstore.

            people have said numerous times, an independent serves community needs that Amazon doesn’t

            Nobody has yet explained what books the community cannot obtain online, which was the actual question.

            Independents are a viable business model (particularly in affluent, well-educated communities), as evidenced by the continued existence of Politics and Prose and others

            The existence of one niche seller does not mean there is unlimited opportunity to operate additional niche sellers, even in Washington. This is especially true of bookstores, which after all sell a product manufactured in China at the behest of publishers in New York (it’s not like a bookstore can sell “locally grown” books).

            I did not and do not definitely predict failure. I wish the proprietors luck, and I assume they have done their homework. Definitely trying to sail upwind, though.

  • Judy Pannier

    Yay, yay, yay……..thanks so much!!!!!Amazon is great, but cozy, touch and feel of books, NOT….can’t wait!!!!!!!

    • WhoIsJohnGalt

      If she can’t compete with the price points of Amazon this is nothing more than a glorified showroom.

      • Ming the Merciless

        She’s still in the “good feelings” stage of the relationship right now. Whether or not she’ll transition to the “actually spending her money there when it’s much cheaper on Amazon” stage remains to be seen.

        • carolkristin

          You’re always so negative and judgmental in your comments. B&N seemed to have many customers buying books even though everyone knows it’s cheaper on Amazon. Don’t know whether it’s due to instant gratification when they want a book, or they simply enjoy walking around and looking at the books and buying them at point of sale. Probably both!

          • Ming the Merciless

            “You’re always so negative and judgmental in your comments: (translation from liberal-speak: stop using facts and logic, they hurt my feeeewings)

            Hate the message, not the messenger. B&N openly stated that they were closing hundreds of their less-profitable stores. You are free to believe that B&N mistakenly closed a profitable store, if you wish, even though this flies in the face of facts and logic.

            I went into the Reston B&N several times a week in the years before it closed. Rarely bought anything, though. I expect I was not the only one of the “many customers” in there who did that.


        agree….I wish them the best of luck but bookstores have closed all over the country…Its all about Amazon now, and if not Amazon, its Walmart or Target or Costco.

        • Rena Corey

          That’s just it – Amazon, by knocking out the large brick-and-mortars, has actually created a niche in which the small independents can thrive. Rachel is planning to take advantage of that niche, and I think it is a great idea!

          • Ming the Merciless

            The small independents are even less viable. Smaller profit margins, less buying power, less ability to sell other things than books, less ability to withstand periods of poor sales, and last but not least, everything they sell is also available cheaper online.

  • Great news, and I am happy to support your endeavor!

  • ken plum

    Looking forward to your opening!

  • jvb11

    Very much looking forward to coming to this new bookstore and buying books again in our community.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I wish Ms. Woods good luck with her endeavour. I share many of the same concerns of most people with the viability of a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the internet age. I sincerely hope that she can find a niche because I really would like to see a sucessful bookseller in Reston.

  • Leila Gordon

    There have been lots of articles lately about the resurgence of independent bookstores. They fill a niche that Amazon and other chain stores can’t – they have a personal touch; can tailor their inventory to their community; and they can host a variety of related activities and experiences. Good luck in this venture!

  • Ann Youngren

    Great news! Wishing Rachel all the best. Much needed.

  • As a local author, I welcome a bookstore. I frequented B&N, bought books, and had book signings there. The added value a store would bring is not the availability of every book at the Amazon price, but the community value. Hopefully Ms. Wood will make enough profit, not to compete with Amazon — which pretty much only cares about bottom line — but to make a living and be a valued member of the community. I wish you great success.

  • Cindy

    Very happy to see another independent business opening in Reston. I just opened my pet supply shop PetMAC at Lake Anne last January and have felt very welcomed by the residents and other pet lovers in the area. I’m a local Reston-ite as well (and native NoVA-ian). Welcome Rachel!

  • Spin

    This makes me sad, because they will probably put their life savings into this. There are very few successful non-chain places in Reston. I hate to say its not possible, but its kind of not possible. Its the only thing i really, really hate about living here. The commitment can’t just come from sellers and buyers: Unless the developers and mgmt companies decide they want to create opportunity for independently owned businesses, like they do in other cities across America, it wont happen. When they tear down Tall Oaks what do you think will happen? Starbucks, fast food chains and a Hallmark are my guess. When they redevelop Lake Anne? Who wants to guess what will happen there?

  • Reston Member

    Don’t bet the 401k, IRA, or borrow against your home. And remember, conservatives buy books, liberals go to the library. Better beat Amazon on pricing!

    • Evey Hammond

      I’m a liberal and I buy books. My mother is a liberal and she buys books. Every liberal I know buys books. We all support bookstores. The lines at the old B&N were not just filled by conservatives. Not even mainly conservatives. The Reston store was one of the most profitable ones in the chain. It closed because of a dispute with a landlord that wanted five year leases on property that at the time it intended to demolish in one year. It did not close because “Liberal Reston” failed to support it. You are engaging in false stereotypes.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Given that Reston Used Books is and has been at Lake Anne Plaza for many years (since at least 1980 or thereabouts), I’d recommend opening the new bookstore south of the Toll Road – like at the pad spot that Unleashed just left at Hunters Woods.

  • eileenminarik

    Welcome, welcome, welcome!

  • Dabraat

    I am one who misses the Barnes and Nobles at the Town Center. My wife and I often stopped by after dinner or a movie to get coffee and peruse the books and magazines. I do think it is imperative that coffee be a part of a modern bookstore. I would also confess to walking the aisles looking at books and then buying something that looked interesting on my phone to read on the Kindle app on my tablet when I got home. Walking the aisles often exposed me to books that I might not come across online and, until they create a virtual-reality bookstore experience, walking the aisles still has some appeal to me. By buying coffee or a magazine I felt like I did my part to keep the store around, but rarely did I buy any books unless there was no Kindle option (and that usually meant an old book to be bought online through Amazon). If this store is small, in a bad location, with no other attractions like a coffee bar, I doubt it will survive and I’ll drift over to B&N at Fair Oaks when I need to…

  • Lorraine Kleinwaks

    I’m thrilled to read this news! Reston is a perfect place for an Indie bookstore — so many Reston book lovers still lamenting the loss of so many bookstores going back to the fabulous Indie at North Point and the small but inviting Brentano’s at the Town Center. I’d be living at Politics & Prose, so many authors come there, but the location and parking is a haul for Restonians. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Lorraine Kleinwaks, Restonian and book blogger

  • Susan F. Avery

    I couldn’t be happier. I was in Independent Bookstore owner for 34 years and I know what it will mean to the community. Besides, my grandchildren live in Reston. Rachel, let me know if there is any way that I can help you and best of luck.

  • Shawn Harrison

    So happy to hear this! Although I do Amazon and read ebooks, I still love walking into a book store, flipping through the pages, and talking to people in the store. An ebook cannot replace the feeling of an actual book in your hand…I’m confident I will always have a mix of paper and electronic. Also…my honey, an IT guy 10 years my junior, prefers a hardback (or a large paperback) over an ebook any day.

  • This is a great article, thanks for writing it. I’m very interested in independent bookstores and this area, so this is great.

    The article didn’t include a link to their Facebook page or anyway to sign up for updates which, frankly, is an oversight (and huge missed opportunity to snag potential customers).

    Here’s the FB page for them that I could find: https://www.facebook.com/scrawlbooks.

    • Karen Goff

      OK. it’s been added (Facebook link). They do not have a web site yet.

      • Excellent thanks so much. Pity on the website though maybe this will prompt them to get one up and going.

        I’m curious if they’ve explored any crowdsouring options for funding too. I suspect people would be supportive of this endeavor.

        • Karen Goff

          She said they might. But nothing is active yet. If they start a go fund me or something we will follow up.

  • Southie

    I’m very happy about the possibility of a second bookstore opening in Reston and hope it will be a successful complement to Lake Anne’s very good Reston Used Book Shop. One question – is this going to only be a children’s bookstore?

    • Karen Goff

      No. It says in the story it will sell books for all ages.


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