Most of us have the dream to start our own business, but there’s always the ‘if only I could…if only I had…” mantra holding us back. However, thanks to a twist of fate, LuAnn Locke was able to unexpectedly find a career that balances her passion for reading and her love for her family when she relaunched Afterwords Books in Edwardsville, a cozy shop offering used books, new books, and gifts.
Growing up, Locke was the kid with her nose in a book while her friends played outside. As she entered adulthhood, she wanted to pursue a career in literature, but wasn’t sure which path to take, the one that she would find most fulfilling and also honor her priority as a mom to her three children, Kaleigh, Jordan, and Ollie. Locke graduated with a B.A. in English and was considering either an MLS or MFA when a new opportunity arose.
Locke was hired as a sales associate by her friend, Rebekah Shelton, who ran AfterWords Bookstore. The part-time gig was perfect – Locke could work around books all day and still have time to spend with her kids. Eventually, Shelton began joking with her about taking over the store.
“I was shocked and honored when Rebekah offered to sell it to me,” said Locke. “She said she could have a fire sale and sell everything off or sell it to me since she knew I loved the store as much as she did. I know how much work goes into owning a business, so I was torn. My father-in-law, who runs a business, told me, ‘If you think you’ll work 40 or 50 hours, add 20 more to that.’
However, I came to realize we could really make this a family business. Kaleigh had just graduated high school and was excited to work at the store. Jordan loves to read so it’s the perfect place to hang out. And the baby can come to work with me. So, the store has become our second home and it’s really the best of both worlds.”
Building off Shelton’s loyal client base, Locke seeks to maintain Afterwords’ reputation as a book lovers’ landmark while making it more appealing to customers with children. She added a separate seating area, a changing table in the restroom, and more educational toys for kids so parents can browse books or pick up a gift at a leisurely pace.
“I love that Rebekah created a place where people feel comfortable browsing without pressure to buy, that they can grab a coffee nearby and settle into a comfy chair and stay a while. I am definitely taking her model and running with it. We continue to offer Saturday storytimes at 11 and we offer a great line of Melissa & Doug products as well as complimentary gift wrapping. Additionally, I’m super excited about the one-of-a-kind journals, bookmarks, greeting cards, and gifts that my friend, artist Natalie Kelsey of NatoBottoArt, is busy creating for Afterwords.”
In addition to marketing to families, Afterwords ensures it reaches out to its book aficionados – those hopeless romantics like Locke (ok, and me). The people, according to Locke, who love the smell and feel of a book, who dream of curling up in bed with a classic and a cup of tea. For them, Locke offers features like book clubs, special events and homemade treats – little touches that make Afterwords and bookstores like it continue to stand out in a Kindle-and-Nook world.
In just a few short weeks, this mom who never imagined she’d be running her own business a few months ago is building a gathering place for her family, friends and neighbors. Her most important lesson – learning how to turn off work the moment she gets home, allowing her to devote her time to kids, and yes, the mounds of laundry three kids generate. She says she’s excited about the challenge ahead, the one so many moms face of balancing family, work, and finding time for herself.
By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting