Hello! Welcome to episode 126 of I’d Rather Stay In. This week, we’re talking to the owner of our favorite local bookstore, Elizabeth Aspbury of Bobzbay Books.
- Follow Liz and Bobzbay on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bobzbay/
- The Bobzbay website: https://www.bobzbay.com/
- Liz’s book recs:
Welcome to I’d rather stay in with your hosts Megan Myers and Stephie Predmore. This week we’re chatting about owning a bookstore with our special guest, Liz Aspbury. Stay tuned.
Do you love listening to I’d rather stay in and want to support the podcast? Well, now you can visit our website or the link in our Instagram profile and click Buy me a coffee or visit buy me a coffee.com/irsipodcast. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can help us cover the costs of creating this podcast. There are no monthly memberships, and you could support us at whatever level you like, whenever you like, whether you buy us one coffee, many coffees or simply continue listening as always, we’re so grateful for your support Hello, hello.
Good morning. Stephie.
Good morning. What’s new in Megan land?
It is all cupcakes all the time over here.
You have been testing cupcakes for the magazine. And guys, she has made so many fucking cupcakes this week.
I have to I am technically done testing reader recipes, except I have to retest one that could possibly have been a user error problem. So I’m retesting them because they tasted really good. There was just an issue with the baking times and stuff. And then I have to make the feature recipe, which is the one that’s like one of my recipes that I like make a beautiful picture of. And so I was looking at the recipe for that today. And it makes 24 cupcakes.
Well, not to worry, I am sure Alex’s coworkers would be happy to eat the cupcakes again.
i So, Stephie’s husband came in got a bunch of the cupcakes to take to the kitchen. And I was really hoping he was going to take more cupcakes because I have so many cupcakes. And I also completely forgot about the cupcakes that are in my refrigerator, which are the raspberry ones, because they were in the refrigerator. So I just didn’t think of it. And so I still have a lot of cupcakes left,
that’s fine. I can make him swing by for work in the next couple of days. He can pick up more because I so when I bake. When I like have a lot of baked goods I send them to work with him. And his co workers like one of his co workers, like never eats. And so he’s just always so excited when I bring in stuff because he’s like, Oh my God, it’s food. And I’m like, okay, sir, you’re a chef. You need to eat like you need to be eating. So
we’re exporting Eric, you Yeah, it’s like when I worked corporate and they would have meetings catered and they wouldn’t be in meetings for art for our side of the building. It’d be meetings for other people. But there would be leftover like crappy Jason’s Deli sandwiches.
Anything I have
to say insane. Yes, like yes, food that had been sitting out
for I am convinced I could send Alex to work with a box of cereal. And these people would be like, Oh my God, yes. I love your wife so much. So it’s fine. Whatever cupcake, getting rid of needs you have can fulfill them are up here. Appreciate that. That’s fine. That’s what we’re here for. It’ll be a service. You know, it’s not that was that was Reus. Stepping on a discarded cereal bowl next to my desk because that’s the life we live. Not, you know? It’s we’re, we’re doing great. Succeeding in every possible way that we can.
I’m gonna leave that in.
I do. I hope that you do. I really just want to be clear with everyone about the kind of life that we live. It’s fine. So okay, guys, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for like, literally any amount of time, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that Megan and I both love to read and we both love supporting our local businesses.
Today, we have the perfect marriage of those two things as we are joined by the owner of our favorite local bookstore to talk about what it’s like running a business all about books. Please welcome Liz Atteberry to the pod. Welcome, Liz. Thank you for having me. Greg, good to be here.
Yeah. Well, we’re so excited to have you joining us today. Liz. tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.
Yeah, There’s not a lot to tell about me. Yeah, my name is Elizabeth Aspbury. I own Bobzbay books in Bloomington Normal. Yeah, I’ve owned it since 2015. I’ve been working here since 2009. So, yep, pretty simple. I don’t do much with my life besides run the bookstore and hang out with my cat. So there’s not a lot to say about me.
Sounds like a great life to me.
Honestly, books and cats. Yeah. Okay. Totally, totally cool. You know, you mentioned that you have owned the bookstore since 2015. But you’ve been working there since long before that. So can you talk a little bit about how you came to own the bookstore?
Unknown Speaker 5:45
Yeah. So it was just pure luck that I ended up owning it. I was just in the right place at the right time. And even before that, it was my my, I got the job because it was a family friend who knew I liked to read and I had a lot of free time. So he wanted to retire. And I wanted, I liked the way the shop was going, I’d like to the direction it was going. And I sort of really quickly got all my ducks in a row. It just I, it’s still a blur. I still don’t know quite how it happened. But all of a sudden, I owned a bookstore. It Yeah.
And you were a baby when that happened?
Unknown Speaker 6:34
Yes, I was. I was 20 years old, I joked that I legally wasn’t allowed to drink.
I couldn’t imagine. That’s incredible.
I feel that indie bookstores have a unique role that goes beyond just selling books. So how are you embracing that position at your store?
Unknown Speaker 6:56
Yeah, so I think something that that is unique about bookstores is that we really focus on the community. Whether it’s events or or the books we carry, we really care. I mean, obviously, other retail does, but we really, I guess, community is really important to us. And it’s really important to me. And just I wouldn’t be here without the community for various reasons. One of my favorite things about owning the shop is the ability to post events, it’s one of my favorite things. One of my new things that we’re doing, that I that I’m really enjoying is open mic poetry, which I you know, I’m not a poet or anything, but a customer said, hey, could we do open mic poetry here? And I? I said, sure, though, that would be you know, by I don’t have any issue with with doing that. So just, you know, I think, really leaning into doing what the, that not doing what the community wants, but seeing what the community would want, I guess. And, and enhancing the community and fundraisers and stuff like that, just just more than just retail, I guess is what bookstores are.
And you know, kind of kind of going off of that your shop is one of the most inclusive bookstores that I can think of which I think it’s especially refreshing given that we are in central Illinois, and that’s not always super common. In your shop, it’s just such a safe space. So what’s creating that safe space? Where marginalized communities were respected and represented, and intention that you had from the start? Was it something that was already established at the store before you took over? I would love to hear about that.
Unknown Speaker 9:00
Yeah, yeah. Um, so when I took over the shop, we were actually a just a general Buy, Sell trade. So we had movies and music and video games. And pretty quickly after I bought it, I was like, This is too overwhelming. I can’t do all this. And once I had the, all the space for books, I started thinking like, Alright, I have all this space for books, what do I want to do with them. And then when the pandemic hit, people wanted to buy new books from me, which is not something we had ever done before. So with the ability to carry new books, I was able to curate a lot better with what we be carried. And as far as being inclusive, it just sort of it wasn’t even a question. It’s just sort of who I am as a person. It’s not really something I try to do. I guess. It’s it’s not hard. You know, I guess So if if a business isn’t inclusive, they, they just they’re trying not to be inclusive. I hate to say that, but like,
Unknown Speaker 10:16
Yeah, it’s all about respect, I see the shop is like my second home, and I want people to walk in and feel comfortable, I want them to feel respected, I want them to feel like, I see myself in the books, or I see a book that I want to, that’ll help me grow. And I mean, it’s just become, as I, you know, I started the shop when I was right, didn’t start the shop, but I bought the shop when I was 20. And, you know, you really grow a lot in that like, that early 20s age. So I think I’ve grown and the shop has grown with me, and it’s, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s not hard to be inclusive. So it just, it’s second nature to me.
I love it, I love them, I can come in, and I can easily find books that are not written by old white dudes. Yeah, like, it’s just so easy in your store. And I see, you know, I can bring my toddler in, and I can find books for her that are inclusive, and that, you know, show all sorts of different characters. And it’s just, it’s great. I love that so, so much.
How do you go about selecting the books that you carry? Partially not just the use books that you buy back from other people, but new releases? And how do you ensure that you are including that wide variety of books on the shelves.
Unknown Speaker 11:47
So I probably don’t do it the way a normal bookstore would. Because no one really I didn’t do any training or anything, I just sort of jumped in with both fee and I’m, I’m constantly in a state of winging it.
To ya know,
Unknown Speaker 12:05
it’s working, it’ll work until it doesn’t. But I, I look for books that are that are unique, it’s something I don’t already have on the shelves. You know, there’s only so many books that you can carry that are about middle aged women finding themselves and going on journeys.
They’re all the same,
Unknown Speaker 12:31
they really are all the same. But I look for books that, you know, I don’t have a billion versions of us. I. So I’m a big fan of horror and fantasy authors, because a lot of great marginalized authors have started to become popular and just fantastic. And, you know, nonfiction and literary fiction. There’s a lot of great classics by bipoc authors. So I’m looking for literary fiction that isn’t trauma based, I guess, I had a discussion with with a customer about a lot of black trauma authors, and how there’s a lot of beautiful black joy that isn’t being seen because it’s not assigned in schools. So I’m really trying to find more of
that to the publisher send out releases do you get? How do you find out that the books are coming out?
Unknown Speaker 13:43
Yes. So when I’m ordering books, I look at catalogs, I look at emails that get sent out, I look at you know, just general social media posts, I ask customers what they’re excited for. I I just sort of have a a wide net that I throw out there to see, to see what I want to order. I usually take about five hours a week to do bulk ordering rather than sitting down and just doing it. And I order monthly rather than quarterly each season. I know a lot of larger bookstores do quarterly. But I just I like to have that. I like to be able to see Oh, last month was really popular for fantasy. So let me put more fantasy new fantasy in for next month, that sort of thing rather than quarterly.
I mean, I think that makes perfect sense.
Yeah, you have more flexibility.
Yeah, you’re able to cater to what your customers really like. Yeah, respond to it in real time. What do you You wish people knew about independent bookstores?
Unknown Speaker 15:05
No one owns an independent bookstore to make money. No one’s in the book business to make money.
You’re not doing this to be a billionaire?
Unknown Speaker 15:14
Unfortunately not. It’s really a true labor of love. I’m really in the business because I love books. I love finding the perfect book for somebody. I, I don’t think I would want to be doing anything else. I don’t know anything else. So, no. But I just, I think there’s something really wonderful about walking if no one’s ever been if you are listening to this, and you’ve never been into an independent bookstore, I highly encourage you just to go into one. And enjoy the fives you don’t have to buy anything. Just see what they’re all about. Because they really they really something special there. There’s really no retail like them.
i My favorite thing when I’m traveling is to like if I see a bookstore like my husband knows if I see an independent bookstore and we’re just like walking around somewhere new. I’m going in. Yeah, we do. We do the same thing with grocery stores. If we see like a little grocery store, we also go in there because we’re weirdos. But yeah, I’m like going in that bookstore because i You’re right. Like there’s always just a certain vibe to the bookstore. Some of them are like, are like Bob’s Bay, and they carry both used books and new books. Like there’s just I just love explore, even if I don’t buy anything, which I usually do. I just like to go in and just peruse. There’s also always a smell with bookstores, that there’s books have a smell that I just love.
Unknown Speaker 16:47
Yeah, they’re they’re like, they’re all unique. They all have their own personality. I think something strange and beautiful about independent bookstores is that all of the bookstore owners get along, like, even in central Illinois, we all like we’re all friends, which you know, in any other any other sort of retail or competing business, we’d be like, oh, yeah, no, don’t go into them come to us. But like, we love each other. So
I’m curious, because you have worked at the store since it opened. And so I’m, I’m wondering what kind of changes you have seen, not just the bookstore. It’s underneath talked about the changes in the bookstore itself. But I’m curious about what you’ve seen change in the community over that time and like at your clientele, and what kind of things that you’ve been selling, like how that has changed through the years.
Unknown Speaker 17:52
Um, so downtown Bloomington has obviously changed a lot. I don’t know how long you guys have been in town?
Yeah, I I’ve been in town. So I came to Wesleyan in 2007. And then was gone for about four years. And then my husband and I moved back in at the very end of 2015. And then Megan moved in 2020.
Unknown Speaker 18:20
Okay, yeah. So it has, I’ve seen down, I’ve seen downtown Bloomington, be a ghost town. And we had, you know, like five regular customers that would come in. So I think that’s why I am so, so comfortable with it being like my, my second home, like just so welcoming to everybody coming in because it started like I knew everybody that came in. And I’m still trying to be good about knowing everybody that comes in, but sometimes it’s a little tricky. But my customer base has really extended beyond just the surrounding downtown area. We have a lot more people coming in from, you know, the East Side, people that used to go to Barnes and Noble and just shop online. The pandemic, really a lot of people saw that. You know, independent bookstores and locally owned businesses were really important and really it was it was very important to keep your tax dollars local and support your community because we’re real people that really matter. And I think that’s one good thing that came out of the pandemic is people supporting local businesses. But as far as like the the type of books that sell I can’t really say that it’s changed a whole lot we’re seeing a lot more nonfiction I suppose. A lot more. Like anti racist non fiction, a lot of like just human improvement, like how can I be a better human type books? Which is which is excellent. So, so yeah, it’s changed a little bit, but our clientele has, has just expanded.
Can you give us kind of going off of that? Can you talk a little bit about what it means? When you do purchase a book from an indie bookstore versus buying it on Amazon? In particular?
Unknown Speaker 20:35
Yeah, yeah. Um, so I have customers that will buy a book from us and be like, I know, it’s only you know, $10 or I know, it’s only $3. But honestly, every purchase really counts to us it like, it really matters. I, I joke that so I joke that I have my four children, which are my forecasts and your your purchase helps support me and my forecasts, and it helps me hire new employees. And it just helps us grow. It helps us put money back into the community, we work a lot with the West Bloomington revitalization project book bike, which puts free books into the community. It you know, we are in downtown Bloomington. So we we are able to, I guess, beautify downtown a little bit. And be that little neighborhood spot for people when when you support an independent when you support us, when you support other independent bookstores. I’m sure they put just as much back into the community as we do.
And I think that’s just it’s so valuable. It’s so valuable. And it allows you to do things like have open mic nights and storytimes and you know, drag queen story hour and do the fun things like you’re doing this Banned Books Week, scavenger hunt this week. Like, I feel like that’s allowing you have the ability to do great things like that that aren’t just hey, come buy a book. Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s so I think that’s so great.
What is your favorite thing about owning a bookstore?
Unknown Speaker 22:38
I think my favorite thing about owning the bookstore is just meeting new people is just having conversations with customers. The other day, I was talking with someone who was telling me about the queer punk scene in Chicago, and he was telling me like are you’d fit the bookstore would fit right in down there. I can’t remember it was like, I can’t remember what street in Chicago he was talking about. And he’s like, oh, you should watch this documentary. I’m in it, and he was in it. And it was just really cool. Just to have these, these conversations with customers just about random things. And I don’t know, I don’t, I don’t think I’d get away with that. If I were to, you know, Walmart or anything like that. I’m just like, have free rein to have conversations with people. Plus, you know, I get cheap books. So that benefit.
That’s why you do a Yeah. You’re a billionaire in books. Yes, yes. Okay, so conversely, what’s your least favorite thing about owning a bookstore,
Unknown Speaker 23:49
I’m probably having to lift heavy boxes of books. I hate it. I hate manual labor.
It’s so strong. I just carry around boxes and books.
When I was in, when I was in college, I worked at the college bookstore. And I was in charge of returns and I had to carry so many boxes all the time. It was in theory ideal when you’re young, but not great when you get older.
I remember when we were moving into our house from our apartment and I was like trying to pack all of my books of course, like you can’t pack and full box of books because then you literally can’t pick it up. So we’re just all of these boxes of books and my husband who is embarrassingly not a reader looks at me, he goes, Do you really need all these books? And I looked at him and I said, Do I really need a husband? He’s never said a word about that sense because he’s not a stupid man.
You I’m sure you’ve read lots and lots of books. So do you keep trying lack of the books that you read in any way do you like do a Goodreads account anything like that? And also, what are you reading right now?
Unknown Speaker 25:07
I do. Yes. So I use story graph, which is it’s like Goodreads but it’s not Amazon owned. Cuz I’m not giving Amazon any of my data. But yeah, it’s it’s started by a woman. And it’s, I love all the data that you can like, break it down and like, see, like, what the your like average pages of a book you read like I’m like to read short books, apparently. But But yeah, it’s story graph. You can import your Goodreads data onto it. So yeah, it’s free. I love it. That’s what I use. And I do read
a lot that went out tonight. Yes,
Unknown Speaker 25:54
that’s amazing. Yeah, I do read a lot of books. I probably read more than the average person but less than the average book reader. So if that makes sense,
probably because you just don’t have time. Yes. Yes. So what are you reading right now?
Unknown Speaker 26:10
Right now I am reading Amari in the night brothers, which is a children’s book, but I love children’s books. It is like Harry Potter Percy Jackson vibes, but it’s a girl in Chicago. So yeah, the sequel just came out, but I wanted to be the first one.
I’ll be honest, I feel sorry for any adult that is like, I don’t like ya or children’s books. I’m like, then you have lost your joy. Your joyless human? I love I love children’s books, and I love YA books. I think they’re great. Also, I just wait on the store graph website. And if your description did not sell me, they have half and quarter stars. And you can mark up August did not finish which are two things that Goodreads does not have, which drives me crazy. So I’m, I’m transferring my Goodreads over to this tonight. Like, this is my project for the night. I’m so excited. Nerd alert. Okay, so I would love to hear some of your favorite books or a list off some categories. I would love to notice what some of your personal favorites are. So what is your all time favorite book?
Unknown Speaker 27:25
Okay, so when you told me that you were going to ask me this question. I was like, I don’t know. Gosh, depends on my mood. It depends on what category I just right now. So I will have a favorite book and make it my personality and tell everybody to read it. So right now. That’s the type of person I am I get obsessed with the book. It’s siren Queen by nivo. They came out last year I think it is like magical realism. Safak love old Hollywood. And it’s just it’s beautiful. I’ve read it twice this year and I don’t have a lot of time to read. So you know, it’s good. It’s, it’s beautiful. I love it. So that also ticks the LGBTQ read that you were gonna ask me so
excellent to do one we love to see.
Also the release within the last year, I guess because
Unknown Speaker 28:23
you said came out last year. I have another one for that one. Okay.
What’s What’s that one?
Unknown Speaker 28:30
That one is the book eaters by Sunni Dean. It is like a fairy tale fantasy takes place in the UK. About a group of people that literally eat books, and this woman has a kid who can’t eat books. He eats mines instead. So she basically has to find a cure for him. It’s got a lot of like, motherhood child like saving your kid vibes which I obviously don’t have a kid but I really enjoyed it but I think people that are mothers would like it more. But I really liked it. So
that sounds really interesting eaters. Yeah.
My to be my TBR list is getting longer the more we talk. Yeah. All right. How about via bipoc author,
Unknown Speaker 29:27
ring shout by P Desi Clark. It is if it’s a novella. It’s like horror fantasy. It’s if the kk k were like actual, like monsters. I mean, I know they’re monsters, but this is like if they were like beastie monsters, it’s got a great strong female lead. It’s just it’s fantastic.
Okay, why a book?
Unknown Speaker 29:57
So this came out this year. I think it’s called the My knees by Ryan masala it has a nonbinary lead, which was is nice and refreshing to see it takes place at a summer camp and bees and it’s a horror movie. It’s a horror book. So very enjoyable.
Alright and last one children’s book.
Unknown Speaker 30:19
So this is just a classic for me. It’s the borrower’s, I think it’s by Mary Norton. I just I’ve read that book so many times. Every time I’d go on vacation as a kid out, that’s like the only book I would bring. And I would read it like three times when I was on vacation. So I just, it’s just a classic.
I love a nostalgic read. Amazing. Well, thank you so much for being here with us today. Thank you for sharing with us. Thank you for narrowing down your favorite reads for us. It’s time to talk about what is bringing us joy this week. So Liz, what is making you especially happy this week?
Unknown Speaker 31:02
I’m easy to please. It’s this weather. It’s so nice out today. It’s beautiful, right?
Today I had the window and door open even though it was actually a little bit too chilly for that. But I didn’t care.
No, especially 95 degree weather two days ago online. Bring it on?
Yeah. It’s great. So Stephie what’s bringing you joy
in my tic tock diving that I do. Daily. This last week, I stumbled across because I follow a lot of like crafters and stuff on my tic tock feed. And I discovered this at sea pattern for a crocheted afghan that is just all swear words. And it I have it favorited and I’m probably going to end up buying the pattern and making it because it’s fucking great. It’s excellent. And it is very me. So my Yes, this I love this. Um, I love being able to take something very, like traditional and you know, like, Oh, you’re crushing air and you make blankets with words like, Fuck nugget on it. Yes. Okay, definitely normal.
You have a couple of years left before it starts to get a little bit dicey and having that stuff around your house.
It’s true. It’s true. But you know what? It’s all figured out. It’s fine.
Yeah, it’s more it’s not that you couldn’t have it. It’s more that you have to like, explain things a little bit. Explain Things and like
don’t say this at school, honey. Don’t repeat the things that you see on the things mommy makes. It’s just a word. It’s just a word. It’s just a word. Meghan, how about you?
I got a new camera. I’m very excited. It is a mirrorless camera, which I’ve never used before. And I started to play with it a little bit this morning. And I don’t know what I’m doing. Because it is different from my old DSLR. So I’m looking forward to like messing around with that. And also apparently my dog is afraid of it.
Yeah, that scans I held it up to my oh my god. Yes, Anya is always afraid of mine too. She’s so dim. I mean, she’s also definitely afraid of my my not my light box. But the the laughter my Yeah, my flash. When I set that up, she’s she’s gotten better where she like once it’s set up, and it’s been set up for a little while she’ll like slowly walk around it to get to her bed. But while I’m setting it up, she’s like, so
scary. Yeah, apparently on a tripod. It’s fine. But when I hold it up to my face that’s like the scary
terrifying. Yeah, she Anna she and I really need to make some sort of club. They’re so special. Yeah, I am very excited about your new camera. I felt I was I had to figure mine out when I got it to I’m like, oh, no, now I got to relearn things, but
I have to actually read the manual.
Where are the buttons? Where are the settings? I
can’t all the buttons are in different places. Is Yeah, you’re like,
damn it. Cuz, I mean, how long have you had your old camera?
Um, I mean, I don’t remember when I upgraded to that one. But I’ve always had that same kind of camera for, you know, at least 10 years, I would say yeah. So really a learning curve? Yeah, a little bit. And also it’s weird because someone warned me actually that You will use the the display rather than the viewfinder. Because Blaze like what you ask woods like accurate and the viewfinder apparently is not quite accurate.
Oh yeah, cuz yeah cuz it’s the full frame. It’s very confusing.
Yes and so I was I noticed that this morning when I was taking the picture and I’m like, what? Why is like the click the color also is a slightly different color in the viewfinder, but it’s perfect in this it’s very weird I
don’t Yeah, it took me a minute to like figure out okay what are my settings need to be like where does my flash need to be in relation to what I’m shooting but once you do a couple things and you like play around with the editing and then you like are like okay, I got it now. So yeah, you know, that’s fine. This is how we keep ourselves young by learning new things. Fine. I’m so, so youthful youthful braids.
Okay, I’ll give you that. Thanks. Next week, we are embracing more of this amazing fall weather and tasting some fall themed snacks.
So you’re gonna get to hear all about what we think about some of these pumpkin spice goodies that are in the store right now. So until then, leave us a review on Apple podcasts and follow us on social media IRSIpodcast. You could also send us an email at I’d rather stay in email@example.com We’d love to hear from you. Bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai