Madison — When Yellow Dog Books opened up recently, there were some e-mails sent around that said, “The Jackson metro area now has a Democratic book vendor!!”
That was a surprise to the father-and-daughter owners of the new enterprise, David Ingebretsen and Anna Ingebretsen-Hall. “Yellow Dog Democrats” is a moniker for people who are so loyal that they would vote for a Democrat even if he was a yellow dog.
“There is no real connection to that,” Ingebretsen said. “I hadn’t even thought of that when I came up with the name. A good book store represents all opinions and ideas. It should be a forum for different viewpoints. Anyone with a strong political viewpoint left or right would be eliminating a large part of their market here.”
The owners wanted a name that reflected a historical connection to Madison. The shop at 2082 Main Street is located close to the railroad tracks.
“When I was employed by the railroad during college, I worked on a freight run called the Yellow Dog,” Ingebretsen said. “And the name stuck. My father and grandfather also worked on the railroad.”
The name was also a reference to Ingebretsen’s beloved golden retriever, who passed away a year ago.
Following a dream
Ingebretsen has dreamed of opening a book store for the past 10 years. He had previously been involved in the real estate business in Jackson, started a parking business and has been active in various civic activities such as Jubilee Jam. His daughter has worked for two of the best independent booksellers in the state (some would say the country), Lemuria in Jackson and Square Books in Oxford.
When deciding to go into business together, the Madison market was attractive for two reasons: It is an affluent area with residents having on average one of the highest per capita income levels in the state. Second, it has a highly-educated population.
“The statistics we saw show in the City of Madison 62% of the people over age 24 have college degrees,” Ingebretsen said. “That is a remarkable statistic. That is 2.5 times the national average. And those are people who read books.”
The father in this team brings business experience to the table. And the daughter has learned a lot by working in bookstores.
“I know books,” said Ingebretsen-Hall. “I enjoy working with them. It is really all I have known. I didn’t wait tables or do those other jobs when I was younger. I’ve always just done books. And I know that my dad has always had a desire to run a bookstore.
“We will have story time for children. I’m hoping that we become a real part of the community sponsoring reading groups, Harry Potter parties, book signings by authors, and other events centered around books. We don’t want to just be a bookstore, but really a part of the process of enjoying books. Our hope is to be a focal point in the community, and we will soon be carrying newspapers and magazines. We offer free coffee, and have chairs and couches to sit around in and read. We will be playing music, and will have a good sampling of world music CDs.”
Pleased with initial response
While the business has been open only a few weeks, early on the response from customers has been good.
“There has been a learning curve in organizing books and dealing with the software,” Ingebretsen said. “But the response has been really good, and I think it will continue to build as people learn we are here. This Monday has been an excellent Monday for us, and this is your slowest day in a bookstore.
“We have a wide range of books, but will emphasize children’s books, gardening and probably mysteries. It will be a full range of titles, and we can get any available title in here for a customer within two to three days.”
In recent years there has been concern about the vanishing independent bookseller. It has been tough for independent booksellers to compete with large chains and the Internet bookstore giant, Amazon.com. But Ingebretsen said the market share for independent bookstores has stabilized.
“Big boxes are not going to take over the world,” he said. “Independent bookstores are more connected to the community in which they are located. We want to be part of the cultural life of Madison County. Amazon is a competitor. The retail business has changed for everyone. We don’t just compete with brick-and-mortar stores. We also compete with the Internet. But we can provide a level of service that Amazon never can. We can put on book events, and Amazon will never do that for the City of Madison.”
Ingebretsen said they really enjoy being in the historic district and have great neighbors such as Persnickety, Inside Story and Bearly Made. Those successful and innovative neighbors that are a big retail draw were a factor in choosing the location.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org.