Bookshop opens in Dot.
Entrepreneur Yooree Losordo sets up shop
Yooree Losordo, owner and operator of Dorchester-based On the Dot Books, is using some innovative ways to be successful in a traditional industry with her independent bookstore business. At the same time, she also is hoping to be part of what she sees as a growing revival of the local-owned, independent bookstore.
While many think that independent bookstores are disappearing in the face of competition from big-name bookstore chains, online giants such as Amazon and the proliferation of e-books, the local bookstore actually is making a comeback. Data from the American Booksellers Association shows that for the last five years the number of independent bookstores has increased annually. For entrepreneurs such as Losordo, the new local bookstore is an evolution from the past and provides a new experience that more and more readers are craving, as well as an ever-important connection to the community.
“I think people are waking up to the fact that local merchants do a lot more for their communities than online and big-box retailers,” Losordo said. “Indie businesses have three times the economic benefit to communities.”
She also shrugs off the concern about e-books. She believes that after riding out the initial wave of e-book mania, tastes are changing and hard-copy books are in fashion again.
“I think people are coming back and realizing it is a better experience reading a book,” she said.
But the real point is that today’s modern local booksellers are not just fighting all the trends. They are incorporating them into the business model and making it part of the appeal.
Losordo won a pitch contest for her local bookstore idea through a business planning class at the Dorchester Arts Collaborative in June 2014. And even though the $5,000 prize was a great boost to her business, it was not enough to open a stand-alone bookstore. So she got creative and opened a book stall at the Ashmont/Peabody Square Farmers Market that same summer. The thought was to capitalize on the food traffic with a different offering and also test out her ability to sell books.
It wasn’t the easiest experience, she admits — especially having to move her book stall setup constantly — but it allowed her to see the benefit of connecting with an existing consumer base.
This base, along with considering the trends of coffee shops selling books or bookstores selling coffee, led her to the Dot2Dot Café in Dorchester. Losordo sold Dot2Dot Café owner Karen Henry-Garrett on the idea of opening up a permanent On the Dot Books location in the Dorchester Avenue café. She launched there last September; the café is open six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday, selling books from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It is becoming a trend where you see food and retail in one location,” she said. “At least in urban areas where the cost of business is going up, up and up, I think we are going to see more businesses that are sharing locations just because that will be the only way to make things work. It is also a way to create more of an experience for our customers. That is a way to differentiate ourselves and compete.”
Losordo is very happy with how things are going so far — and so is Henry-Garrett, who says she is a big supporter of bookstores.
“It is beneficial to have here. I like it. People definitely like having a bookstore in here. The kids love it,” Henry-Garrett said. “I think it is definitely something that makes us stand out from others. We are certainly unique along the avenue.”
On the Dot Books’ corner in Dot2Dot Café is filled with shelves of fiction, nonfiction, cookbooks, children’s books, as well as toys and other gifts. But the business doesn’t end there.
On the Dot Books also organizes author dinners, works with Boston Public Schools to bring authors to schools and has a strong online presence.
Through onthedotbooks.com, the company offers online book retail, e-books and a custom gift service that helps consumers select, buy, wrap and deliver books as gifts.
With a strong social media presence as well, Losordo is leaving no page unturned to connect with the book-loving Dorchester public.
She also is looking for her own location to open a larger bookstore, but however that works out she will have a plan that is beyond just books, whether it is coffee and a café or a liquor license or even music and events. Eventually she would like to open an 800-to-1,200-square-foot location in Dorchester.
Losordo grew up in Queens, N.Y., where she got an early taste for books as her mother is a longtime worker at the Queens Public Library. However, her path to the book industry wasn’t a straight one. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in English. She then taught English in Finland for six months before returning home.
Looking for a way to jumpstart her professional career she used her English academic background to get a job working in corporate communications in the health-care industry, which quickly became a specialty for her and she had several jobs in the sector.
In 2005, she moved to Boston to take a job with Pri-Med, a medical education company. In 2008, she spun her communications skills into a job with marketing company Ark Media, focusing on the company’s pharmaceutical clients. But the job would only last a year because, like many during the downswing that hit the economy around 2008, she was laid off.
With jobs prospects looking slim, she decided to start a family with her husband Ben. Two young daughters later, Losordo began to think about the next step for her professionally.
Having moved several times since arriving in Boston — from Quincy to Canton to Dorchester in 2010 — she said she really started to think of ways she could do something that could be connected to the community.
This led her to the Dorchester Arts Collaborative and the business planning class that would spawn the idea for On the Dot Books.
“I had always thought we could use more local businesses in Dorchester because when I was staying home with my kids I realized there were not a lot of places for us to go during the day. We were always leaving Dorchester to do things,” Losordo said. “I thought a bookstore would be great because that is the No. 1 business I would like to see in Dorchester, so I said I want to open a bookstore.”