Today we’re talking with Pat Banning, owner and manager of BookEnds , the only independent general interest bookstore on Honolulu’s island of Oahu. Kailua, a short trip through a mountain tunnel from Honolulu, is noted for its great beaches, but also for its charming local shops, of which BookEnds (www.facebook.com/pages/BookEnds) is one.Bookends is crammed full of new and used books—a playful place for all ages, with a special interest in children’s books.
MUF: Pat, please describe the unique atmosphere you have created at BookEnds.
Pat: We really like the shop to be a welcoming, casual, non-frightening place; to keep kids ever-alert for new things and creatures who might have joined the store- even before you can read, a space with interesting things inside.
MUF: Years ago when Borders opened a branch in nearby Kaneohe, many people said oh dear, what’s going to become of BookEnds? But now Border’s is nowhere to be found. And then there’s the whole electronic book thing. What’s your survival secret?
Pat: I think the secret MAY be in staying just-big-enough to have a reasonable inventory, small enough to be quick on our feet, to make changes that we see meets the demands of our VERY discerning customers in Kailua….our biggest strength is our very very loyal customer-base.
MUF: On an urban island with a population of just under a million yours is THE independent general interest bookstore. Ever consider cloning yourself? Expanding?
Pat: We’d love to expand; we never have enough space to keep our books reined in! And we’ve got some fun ideas for a BIGGER kid’s section, but….. even thought about another branch, but the thinner you spread your flavor, the less taste there is! So, no cloning, but we’re happy to give helpful hints to others…..
MUF: It’s obvious you folks love children’s books. How do you chose what to carry in your store?
Pat: We try to carry stuff we love, we try to read as much early material as we can get, and we take the really good advice of the sales reps who sell us publisher’s lists. A well-written children’s book should be just as entertaining for a grown-up as for a child, so if we like it, chances are a lot of kids will like it too.
MUF: As middle-grade authors (and readers) we have to ask: what favorite titles, new and old, fiction and nonfiction, are you recommending to middle graders these days?
Pat: We love the Percy Jackson series, the Pegasus series, the Septimus Heap series, the Susan Cooper books, the Sisters Grimm, the Series of Unfortunate events…there are really so so many great things coming out right now, that it’s hard to keep up…..Harry Potter started a huge demand for fantasy, but there is still a lot of reality-based fiction that is excellent……I have to admit that I don’t get a lot of NON-fiction coming through the door these days , for middle-readers, anyway.
MUF: Since you carry used books along with new, chances of finding an old favorite in your shop are pretty good. Can you think of some rare children’s titles or editions you have in stock that we might have trouble finding anywhere else?
Pat: We’ve got a really nice cache of Raggedy Anns that you don’t see often, some of the old Ant and Bee books, a few early Nancy Drews, a very old Little Black Sambo.
MUF: Tell us a little about your Kailua neighborhood. If a family made a day trip to BookEnds, would there be family-friendly places nearby to get a snack or meal after browsing? What other family activities and attractions would be available nearby?
Pat: Well, there’s the park, and the beach really close, the community pool and tennis courts, lots of shopping, and Kailua has the gamut of restaurants, from Macdonalds and Subway, pizza of all types, to Indian and Mexican foods and lots of healthy salads. And of course, coffee for mom and dad….and we’re all waiting to see what Target, opening soon! is going to mean for us here.
Readers, have any of you been to this shop? If not, and if you’re planning a visit to Honolulu, do include that trip over the Pali to Kailua for a book-lover’s holiday. If you live on Oahu already, why not un-chain yourself and drive to the windward side to experience a real bookstore!
Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012, HarperCollinsUK, 2013).