Oh, the stories; city bookseller marks 30 years

NASHUA – Annie’s Book Stop on Amherst Street is celebrating 30 years in business this month – not bad for a business that has seen the entire industry change around them.

“When we opened in 1981,” said owner Nancy Zlotek, “there was a full-line book store at the Nashua Mall and a used book store on West Pearl Street, and we were way out here. For a long time, we had a cornered market and then, of course, the ’90s brought the Internet and that has really exploded in the 2000s. For any brick-and-mortar store, you’re vying against the Internet.”

Annie’s is a franchise with locations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Florida. There are two locations in Nashua, the second at 112 Daniel Webster Highway.

Zlotek, president of the franchise owner’s association, said Annie’s has something that many book stores don’t have and can’t always be found on the Internet.

“I think one of the reasons we have continued to hang on here is that we have a great deal of back-list titles, which most book stores don’t have,” she said. “About 30 percent of our sales are new books and we do special orders every week and get them in faster (than some bigger stores).”

But the competition is heavy.

“In 2010 we saw a drop because of online sales and e-readers,” Zlotek said. “That certainly has had an impact, along with the fact that since 2000 you had the box stores coming in. Every time you turn around, you see books being sold some place.”

“I talk to people in a lot of different small businesses, and everyone is kind of hurting because of the economy and because, not just in the book business, there are just so many choices these days,” Zlotek said. “It’s really getting to be tough all around, but we do have some things that people really appreciate us for, and we’re always trying to let people know that we’re here.”

Zlotek was the first owner to sign a franchise contract, and the Amherst Street location was the first franchise store to open. The chain continued opening stores throughout the ’80s and early ’90s.

A reorganization took place in the early ’90s in which the franchise owners bought the trade name and established a license agreement and trade association for the remaining stores.

Zlotek has been president of the association for most of the years since then.

The store is celebrating with a series of events, author Steve Burt, on Saturday signing his new teen paranormal novel, “FreeK Camp,” 1-2:30 p.m., and author L.E. Hastings signing his two volumes of poetry and inspirational stories titled “The House on Blue Lawn” and “When Life and Reality Collide,” on June 23, from 5-7 p.m.