Young entrepreneur launches bookstore

The last physical evidence of Railroad Street Books’ existence disappeared Feb. 3 when a sign appeared for Brain Candy Books – signifying a new name, new ownership and a new aesthetic.

Sydney Coppin, 18, still runs a used book store from the space at the corner of Railroad Street and Myrtle Avenue, using inventory inherited from the previous owners, but the style has been rearranged. Previously, shelves packed with books covered most of the store. Now a portion of the inventory has been moved to the back room to open up floor space for seating. The front counter offers soft drinks for customers while they sit and peruse potential purchases or surf the Web using the store’s free Wi-Fi connection.

Brain Candy is Coppin’s first business. Her father, Edward Coppin, owns neighboring New York Catering as well as the building that houses the book store. When he learned the owners of Railroad Street Books intended to sell, he presented the idea to his daughter.

The deal was made in November and once Coppin had the floor redone and reorganized the shop, it opened for business Jan. 2.

For now, it’s just Coppin and her puppy Bella manning the shop, with some occasional help from family members or her boyfriend. With the time and the resources needed to keep the shop running, it’s been a learning experience, she said.

“It’s been hard, really hard, but I think it’s also been fun with the responsibility and all,” she said. “I’ve worked with my dad through his catering business forever, and it’s nice to have something that’s my own.”

But running a business is entirely new and, when she becomes confused by an unfamiliar aspect of running the store, she seeks her father’s advice. It’s one example of how the book store is a family affair; another is that Coppin’s family voted on the Brain Candy name, she said.

Coppin handles all of the estimated 25,000 books left by the former owners, but she signed a deal in which she pays for the inventory in monthly installments. Meanwhile, new stock has come in at a roughly equal rate with outgoing stock, Coppin said. The store buys books through in-store credit; sales to customers with credit go half-and-half on cash and credit.

The bank account has been squeezed tight during the first month of business, but customer interest in the new store has been good, Coppin said. Customer traffic was relatively heavy during the first few days the store was open. The most complimentary comments have come from customers entering the store for the first time.

Publicity is strictly word-of-mouth at the moment. The store has no Web presence, but may set up a page through a social networking site like MySpace or Facebook. A grand opening event will take place at an undetermined future date.

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