Be Off The Beaten Path…

I am in Nashville TN for the Country Music Half-marathon (finished this morning). Yesterday, my crew and I were out doing a little shopping when we stumbled upon this old bookstore just off the Vanderbilt University campus:

The Bookman Nashville from Todd Schnick on Vimeo.

Hard to tell from the video, but this shop smelled like old books. There were too many books for the shelves, in fact, each shelf had two rows stacked one in front of the other. It was very hard to find anything. The little nooks were small and cramped and I had to duck my head to get into most of them.

And. I. Loved. It.

This is the kind of place that people remember. This is the kind of place that you talk about. This is the kind of the place that I will share with others (this blog post notwithstanding). And this is the kind of business I want to be. To be off the beaten path…

Here are 9 things to learn from the Bookman:

1. Be the kind of place that when you see it from the road, people want to drop everything and check it out.
2. Be the kind of place that you love to just walk around and soak up the environment.
3. Be the kind of place that doesn’t care what people think about the decor. Create your own environment that is you.
4. When you find what you are looking for (in my case, Tom Peter’s In Search of Excellence) you will remember the story about how you got it for a long time.
5. Don’t be what everyone expects. That makes it memorable.
6. You don’t have to be online to thrive. There is a market for who you are, even if you are a bricks-n-mortar joint that sells niche.
7. Be inconvenient. Sometimes making a 6’3″ duck to get into a nook makes finding what he wants even more special.
8. Be the kind of place that when customer’s drive by, they point you out to the people they are with, and fondly recall the story of their visit.
9. Be off the beaten path. When people decide to find you, there begins their own story…

…which adds to yours.

Now, go out there and apply these lessons to you and your business. Just know people will probably come in and video your shop too…

Are you off the beaten path?

  • Todd Youngblood


    Ever since Oxford Bookstore in downtown Atl went under, I’ve had to make do with Barnes & Noble. Not bad, but too antiseptic; no old, well-used volumes and no trace of that old book aroma. Can The Bookman compete with The Strand in NYC???

    With regard to keeping your business off the beaten path, I agree and think it’s necessary to ask colleagues if that’s where you are and NOT rely on your own opinion. What you think is offbeat and cool about your business might be perceived as dopey by others.

    Example: Taking Intrepid Marketing concepts into the industrial distribution and control systems integration worlds is most definitely off the beaten path. Kudos to you for following your own advice.



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  • pawel @ MInimalist Business

    Good post Todd but here’s the problem. I sometimes feel that too many businesses try to hard. i mean really too hard to be different. But unless it comes naturally it won’t work. \

    My 3 cents though :)

  • Todd

    Pawel – Yes, you are correct. In my opinion, a business tries too hard, and not at all. I think the example shown above is a small business that is putting forth a compelling product, but is just being themselves. They are marketing towards a niche, and don’t care that most people would find the bookstore cluttered. This business is NOT looking towards online or Barnes + Noble customers as their target…