Firefly bookstore celebrates 10 years in Kutztown


Firefly Bookstore has now been part of downtown Kutztown for a decade, and owners Rebecca Laincz and Matthew Williams are eager to show the community their gratitude for their support over the years.

Friday through Monday, September 2-5, Firefly Bookstore will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a store-wide sale and other events.

On Saturday, September 3, there will be an opening performance by KyoDaiko, a Taiko (Japanese drum) group from Philadelphia, in front of the store. There will be other activities as well as refreshments inside from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The store will be open as usual until 8 p.m.

“It was wonderful to be downtown,” Williams said in the event’s press release. “We started in 2012 just down the block at 230 West Main with just 1,200 square feet. Within five years, we had outgrown the space and were fortunate enough to be able to move into Jackie & Daughter’s former space at 271 West Main.

The business plan that the partners had developed over the previous years was based in part on their own experiences working in bookstores.

“I worked in bookstores most of my adult life, outside of school,” Laincz explained. “I was actually on the opening team for Wyomissing Borders in the late ’90s.”

Williams’ background in books was less varied than her partner’s, but included library work as well as a background in graphic design and technology.

“We have overlapping skills, but between the two of us we have a range of experiences that have really helped us grow this business,” he said.

Moving to a bigger space

In December 2016, they completed the purchase of 271 West Main. In January, they started working on renovating the space.

” It was hard. That’s an understatement,” Williams said. “We didn’t have a huge budget, so a lot of the work was done by ourselves and a few of our friends. We had to learn very quickly how to do this kind of building construction and repair.

“We even organized special events for cleaning floors, building shelves or painting and asked for volunteers to help us,” he continued. “What was amazing was that people responded.”

“We were so grateful to everyone who was willing to volunteer their time to help get the store ready,” added Williams.

The move from 230 to 271 West Main in Kutztown required a small army of volunteers to pack, move, and unpack each of the shelves in 2017. The community rallied together to support the Firefly Bookstore. (PHOTO COURTESY OF FIREFLY BOOKSTORE)

The move from 230 to 271 West Main required a small army of volunteers to pack, move and unpack each of the shelves. Once again, the community rallied to support the company.

“We knew it was going to take several days to get the books, shelves and all the other furniture to the new space,” Laincz explained. “But in addition to ourselves and our employees, people came through the march weather and helped with whatever they could. It was fantastic and rewarding.

In March 2017, Firefly was able to open its doors to the new 3,000 square foot space, adding more than 50 new shelves, as well as dedicated workspaces for buying and shipping books.

“It was so freeing to have space to spread out again,” Laincz said. “So many things we wanted to do became possible.”

Rebecca Laincz and Matthew Williams, owners of Firefly Bookstore, with Firefly staff.  (Photo submitted - Firefly)
Rebecca Laincz and Matthew Williams, owners of Firefly Bookstore, with Firefly staff. (Photo submitted – Firefly)

After opening the new space, Laincz and Williams began expanding the staff and adding more events. In particular, the monthly Open Mic Night has become a haven for published and emerging writers to share their work and stories.

“Overall, the events we’ve organized for local authors and writers have been quite successful,” Laincz noted. “Having the space to do it right has been essential.”

The challenges of the past 10 years have been fairly typical for a new business; building a customer base, balancing cash flow, building a staff, and learning how to take time off were all part of the early years of operation.

As has been the case for many other small businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 closure have posed a particular challenge for bookstore owners. Like many in their industry, they had to change direction very quickly.

“We were able to pivot our business to online and curbside pickup relatively smoothly, although it took a lot more work,” Williams said. “With our employees on furlough, Rebecca and I were in the store 10-12 hours a day, six days a week. Everything took longer.

“But we still consider ourselves very lucky. Not all bookstores were able to do what we did and other downtown stores were also pretty hard hit by the closure,” Williams continued. “Once again, the support and encouragement from our customers really got us through the worst. This community really cares about having a bookstore downtown, and we appreciate that.

What future for the store?

“We see that our business will need to continue to build its online presence. One of the lessons of the pandemic is that a strong online business can provide strong business support. But the foundation will remain the local community,” Laincz said.

“A bookstore should be a dynamic space that evolves and changes with its customers,” added Williams. “That means increasing some sections and maybe reducing others. For example, we hope to continue to expand the games and puzzles section, add more space for children’s books, and more books to support health and well-being.

“We believe future demands are going to require resources such as what Firefly can provide,” he continued.

They have space upstairs that they would like to finish so they can use it to expand events, create gallery space, and have room for special collections.

“It will take time to fully develop, but we have already started using the space for Book Club meetings,” he said.

For Firefly, it’s not just about practical matters such as the environment, health, society or education. Owners also see the need for a little escape, an oasis of emotional and mental recovery.

“Reading is good for us in many ways. Games and puzzles can also stimulate and energize, reconnect people and help children build skills,” Williams said.

“A bookstore can support in more than one way. We can be a safe space, a comfortable environment, a place to find new stories and ideas,” Laincz added. “We can be a place to recharge so that our clients can meet the challenges of their lives.

“We look forward to the future of Firefly. We hope our customers will be too.

The Firefly Bookstore is open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For the Labor Day weekend anniversary celebration, the store will be open regular hours, opening early at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 3. For more information, see the store’s events page at www.fireflybookstore.com/event-calendar or contact the store at 484-648-2712.

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