From hosting book signings to selling everything from fair trade goods and Pennslyvania Dutch candies, the Chautauqua Bookstore is integral to life at the Institution. And Donna Domnick, Nancy Swanson, and Carolyn Snider are integral to the bookstore.
“The three of them do the bulk of the stuff in the bookstore,” said Earl Rothfus, bookstore manager. “Without them, the store doesn’t function.”
Dominick manages the accounts and contacts publishers; Swanson is an assistant manager and takes care of displays and troubleshooting; and Snider is the shipping and receiving manager. Between them, they handle more than $1 million in sales every year.
Dominick has been at the bookstore the longest, since the 1989 season.
“I have to keep our accounts straight because we have so many book distributers,” she said. “All the way from a little mom-and-pop publishing company to something as big as Penguin-Random House.”
Besides making sure bills are paid on time, Dominick also works with publishers to be reimbursed for publicity events, such as book signings.
“It brings a little extra income in, especially being a nonprofit organization,” Dominick said. “I like to bring in as much as I possibly can by doing that, and make sure we pay things on time so that we’re not paying late fees.”
After the books are paid for, they come to Snider at the back of the bookstore, where she logs all the merchandise.
“Everyday, we will get at least two trucks, FedEx and UPS, and average around 50 boxes a day,” Snider said. “I think the biggest day we ever had in a shipment was right before [this] season, and we decided we were going to open the fair trade store. It was $13,000 in retail merchandise that I checked in, in two days.”
Finally, Swanson oversees the actual arrangement of the books and helps out the sales representatives.
“Primarily my job is to, when we receive things, to make sure they get out on the floor and the displays are done attractively,” Swanson said. “Then, during the season a lot of what I do is troubleshooting. Not that we have a lot of trouble, but when we go from five or more year-round people to close to 40 during the season, there are so many things that happen that we don’t foresee in our training.”
Despite the volume of their work, they all enjoy their jobs at the bookstore. Among the benefits are the pile of pre-publication books that are left in the break room.
“I’ve read a lot of pre-publication books that nobody else has read yet,” Swanson said. “I enjoy that, too, getting a little heads up on what’s going to be a current, or the next novel or book to read. I’ve read some awful ones that, personally, I thought were horrible — but when they were actually published, Oprah loved them.”
During the last off-season, Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Sherra Babcock introduced a program called “Books@Work” to the Institution. Employees can read a book in a month and then meet and discuss it with others.
“I read books I normally would not have read at all,” Snider said. “And we’re hooked up with a professor at one of the colleges, which was great because they gave you great insight into the book and knew it very well. It was fantastic doing that.”
Besides the opportunity to be around books, both new and old, the employees appreciate their colleagues and customers.
“It’s a great opportunity; everyone should work here,” Snider said. “It’s fun. You learn so many things working here. And a lot of great people work here, and great minds too.”