Business is booming at Park Street Books – New England’s largest children’s bookstore – and that has the walls of 26 Park St. bursting at the seams.
“We have about 800,000 books and we’re constantly getting books in and we don’t have the space to put them out,” said store owner Jim James, a former preschool teacher who opened his first book store in Walpole in 2004 then moved it to Medfield in 2008.
He expanded the store in 2010 and is now ready to expand again.
“It would be nice to have 4,000 or 5,000 square feet but it’s just not available and it’s not realistic to think it’s available,” said James. “The alternative is we’re going to be creative in finding other spaces and we’ll make it work that way.”
James said he will be taking on more space in the current building and expanding The Pottery Place to include “any kind of art activity that you can think of for kids” with art classes and instruction in other areas such as sewing and quilting.
But with the Pottery Place doing extremely well on its own – James said the demand has been incredible and he is ready to add a second kiln – an expansion of the current store would only be a temporary fix.
James said he would like to keep Park Street Books in Medfield but said it will be difficult with very few commercial buildings that could fit his needs.
In a recent attempt to get more space and a higher profile, James made “a very good offer” on the shuttered Coldwell Banker building on Main Street but the offer was rejected Monday.
“We’re trying our best to get more space, I’ve really been looking hard,” he said this week. “We’ll work with what we have but it will be short term because we really do need a lot more than this … The goal is to one day have a giant store with everything in it wherever we can find it.”
James said that sales are up 70 percent over last year, and said he has had 300 customers in the store on each of the last three Saturdays.
“Three hundred people is a lot of people in a little store,” he said.
Sales are up for many reasons, said James. Mall book stores have closed and Park Street Books is unique and the discount prices are unbeatable.
“No other store has this selection of books at these prices, and there’s still a big demand for real books, there really is, especially for children,” he said.
In fact, next week James will accept delivery of 60,000 books when a tractor trailer drops off 20 pallets of 3,000 books each at his off-site storage barn.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said of the lack of space and not being able to have all copies of all books in one place if, for example, a teacher wants to purchase 20 copies of one book. “We have them, we just don’t have the space to have them in the store. With this [limited] amount of space, we try to have a representative sample but we want to have many, many more books readily available.”
James said he will continue to look for a large enough building to keep his exceptional store in Medfield.
“We’re trying our best to just make this something amazing,” James said. “We want to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. There’s a drive to make it an amazing place and I think we’ll get there … I see great things coming.”