Provenance the Web Magazine
ISSN 1203-8954 -
Vol.2 No.2 Spring 1997

BOLLUM'S BOOKS: A "Super" Store in Every Way!

- By Janis Wright


The concept of a book superstore is relatively new In Canada, but Bollum's Books of Vancouver is proving that, with the right approach, such a business can be extremely successful. Although the store has been in operation for less than two years, it is thriving.

Founder and president of Bollum's Books Limited, Tom Bollum is the impetus behind this success story. Based in Vancouver for the last twelve years, Mr. Bollum is a landed U.S. immigrant with a degree in advertising from the University of Florida. He is the former founder and president of Eye Masters Limited, a national chain of twenty-one optical stores.

Bollum was the 1992 Canadian Association of Venture Capital Companies Entrepreneur of the Year. He sold his company in 1993 to Lens Crafters, subsequently turned his attention to the world of books, and researched the market.

Mr. Bollum is an entrepreneur with vision. He saw the need for a Canadian retail outlet which offers more than just a large quantity of reading material in a warehouse setting. A book lover himself, Bollum was inspired by Joseph Beth Booksellers In Kentucky, a superstore which supplies excellent selection and service; in a spacious, comfortable setting.

His research indicated that Vancouver's citizens read more than any others in the country. Next. with the assistance of local investors, Bollum leased the 23,000 square foot, former Birk's Jeweler's property on the corner of Granville and Georgia in the centre of downtown Vancouver. This prime business site has been a favourite 'landmark in the city for years.

After much effort and activity, Bollum/s Books opened its doors in July, 1995.

Bollum's has retained as much as possible of Birk's grandeur, a look most evident in the beautiful marble pillars situated throughout the building. Circular cushioned seating areas have been built around many of the pillars. Sections of the original hardwood floor still exist, complemented now by slate and carpet, which cover most of the floor.

Tom Bollum himself has chosen much of the fine furniture which graces nooks and corners of the store. Comfortable easy chairs entice customers to relax and linger. Cherrywood shelves and marble tables add to the feeling of culture. Romantic music plays in the background to complete the ambiance.

The comfortable atmosphere of Bollum's is enhanced by its attractive displays of merchandise and helpful staff. Books are exhibited In all windows, inviting passersby to enter.

Inside, a welcoming banner and information desk are positioned strategically near the entrance. The desk is manned by staff with computerized access to the store's inventory. In this way expedient service is offered to busy customers. Immediate answers on the availability and location of a particular item can be given. Store maps are also obtained here.

Approximately eighty-five thousand titles of general interest are displayed on two floors, mostly alphabetically by author within a subject area. Specific items are easy to locate because of excellent signage and orderly, eye-catching displays. The spacious aisles allow patrons room to maneuver. International bestsellers are positioned near the front entrance. for the convenience of the customer, and offer a continual twenty-five percent discount. Tables of signed books are also displayed close to the entrance. The Canadiana section is guarded by a painted wooden RCMP officer, while the mystery section is adorned with a body outline on the floor. An extensive international newsstand is situated near the back entrance to the store. Also sold are video and audio cassettes, calendars, mugs. greeting cards, bookmarks, maps and umbrellas.

An escalator joins the two floors. The bottom level of the store Includes The [Last Word] Cafe, a cozy place to stop for a snack or light meal. Good food is offered in a library-like environment, complete with piles of books on the tables. The bargain section of the store is located on this level. Popular titles are offered at low prices, and are displayed in exactly the same format as all others. Hunting through stacks of books to find an interesting one is not necessary here! The Special Orders department is found on this level as well. Most items can be obtained within approximately two weeks.

An incentive plan for frequent purchases is offered as well. Customers may join, free of charge, a private book club at Bollums, and receive a ten percent discount for every hundred dollars they spend.

Bollum's Books believes in meeting needs of local interest. Events calendars posted In the store reflect this attitude toward the community. A "Writers on Writing" series is advertised. Canadian authors frequent the bookstore to discuss and sign their latest works. Visitors include Robert Bateman, Sue Grafton, Alice Munro, Angus Reid, Ruth Rendell and David Suzuki.

Poetry readings, slide shows and Star Trek parties ace held!

A survey taken last year of Bollum's customers suggests a large percentage of them are thirty-five years and older, in a middle to upper income bracket, and well educated. Thus, the reading material found at Bollum/s tends to consist more of intelligent matter and less of little substance.

A stand containing winners of Governor General's awards, Pulitzer and Booker prizes is one of the first displays noticed upon entering the store. Operating hours also mirror Bollum's service philosophy towards its customers and surrounding environment.

The store is open from 9:00 A.M. until 10:00 P.M., Mondays through Thursdays: 9:00 A.M. until 11:00 P.M. on Fridays and Saturdays; 11:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. on Sundays and holidays.
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