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CCCC Small Business Center helped Circle City Books & Music launch successfully

By Katherine McDonald
Posted Sunday, July 14, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - Put a book in Myles Friedman’s hands and he’s as excited as a kid at Christmas.

Friedman, the owner of Circle City Books & Music, shares his enthusiasm and knowledge about books with customers to his shop in the historic heart of Pittsboro.

He has kept all the charm and customer service of a traditional bookstore and added to it a calendar of activities such as book signings, meet-the-author, and special events. His 1,200-square-foot store at 121 Hillsboro St. is filled with more than 20,000 volumes to appeal to every variety of reader. Circle City also stocks old 45 and 33 rpm vinyl records as well as CDs.

Friedman’s connection with books began years ago when, soon out of college, he helped run the Fair Exchange Bookstore, in Carrboro. Pursuing his passion for words, he became a newspaper writer and then started a company, Vanguard Publications. For 15 years he and a partner published a magazine that featured travel to baseball spring training camps. The business did well until the early 2000s, when such information became available for free via the Internet.

About a year ago, Friedman, still in love with words and gifted with the spirit of an entrepreneur, had the hankering to return to his first love: finding, sharing, buying, and selling used books, from second-hand best sellers to rare collectibles.

He felt such an operation would work in Pittsboro but, despite having owned other businesses, he had never been the one responsible for the financials. He was the writer, the editor and the publisher, leaving the running of the business to a partner, so he had doubts.

He had found a perfect location and purchased lots of great books. What he didn’t have was up-to-date expertise on operating a successful small business. Among those he turned to for help was Gary Kibler, director of Central Carolina Community College’s Small Business Center in Chatham County.

The Small Business Center provides free services to would-be and existing small business owners, assisting them with business counseling, coaching, education, and networking to establish and maintain their businesses. It is part of the North Carolina Small Business Center Network, whose mission is “to help develop the local economy one business at a time.”

“Myles was a walk-in client,” Kibler said. “I covered with him the essentials of starting any business in the county.”

Kibler and Friedman talked about whether Friedman should incorporate or operate as a sole proprietor. They did a break-even analysis to see that, with reasonable projections for both sales and operating costs, Friedman could produce enough income to justify his effort. They reviewed the steps he needed to accomplish to ensure he was in compliance with operating a business in the town and county.

Friedman credits Kibler with helping to organize his thinking, providing essential referrals for services and dispelling the nagging questions, such as, “What have I missed?”

One of Kibler’s favorite questions is, “What’s your special sauce?” That is, why would someone buy a book from Friedman’s store rather than online? Friedman had to address the serious issue of how he would compete with online booksellers, such as Amazon.

Friedman’s position is that he cannot compete with the giants on some items. They often get books donated from thrift stores or public libraries and charge only a cent above the cost of freight. There’s no way to compete on price on such items. However, he can match or beat the price of his competition on most items in the store.

His real advantage has little to do with price, according to Circle City customer Susan Soleil.

“Shopping in a book store offers a more complete, satisfying experience,” she said. “You can see the condition of a book, examine it and discuss its qualities with the shop owner. You cannot beat the experience of touching and browsing in a bookstore.”

Keep up with what’s happening at Circle City Books & Music by visiting the store or at its Facebook page, or by calling 919-548-5954.

For more information about CCCC’s Small Business Center in Chatham County, email Gary Kibler at gkibler@cccc.edu or call him at 919-542-6495, ext. 215. For the Small Business Center in Lee County, contact Mike Jones at mjones@cccc.edu or 919-718-7424. For the Small Business Center in Harnett County, contact Nancy Blackman, nblackman@cccc.edu or 910-892-2884.

 
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