Reading, MA — Liz Whitelam, the owner of Whitelam Books on Main Street, recently celebrated its fifth anniversary of opening. Whitelam, an avid book lover, has loved bringing a bookstore into Reading and contributing to the downtown community.
Whitelam, a long-time Reading resident, had been working in the corporate world in various sectors for almost 20 years, including marketing, internet technology, and consulting. As a “lifelong compulsive reader,” Whitelam was ready for something new, hoping that this something had to do with books.
She looked into getting a degree in Library Sciences but got involved with a consulting group that helps people open bookstores who don’t have prior experience. Through the online course, Whitelam realized that she could bring together all the skills she had developed in her corporate life. Attending the conference held in Florida, she found her people.
Through the consulting group and their “bookstore bootcamp,” Whitelam was able to connect with the larger book-selling community. She found the bookstore industry to be very collaborative.
Whitelam had also seen the investment the town and larger community had made in evolving downtown Reading. She recognized this commitment to making space for new businesses and wanted to be a part of making that successful.
“A bookstore is the kind of business that sends a signal to other businesses and also developers that this is the kind of town that can support a small business,” said Whitelam. “For me, this is something I wanted to do for our community.”
Since opening, Whitelam Books has welcomed customers from all over the state. With as many as eight to nine thousand books on their shelves on any given day, Whitelam Books has an extensive variety of genres for all ages.
“There is something in this space for everyone, cradle to grave,” said Whitelam. “We have some of the original story time participants that are coming in and choosing books for themselves. It is a wonderful thing to watch our customers grow with us.”
Whitelam Books has become a happy place for its customers, as Whitelam has worked hard to create an environment where people feel comfortable and happy.
Whitelam Books is heavily active in the book-lovers community, hosting weekly storytimes for young readers, supporting writers for National Novel Writing Month, and the various book clubs hosted through the store. Whitelam also loves hosting authors and book events, providing readers and authors with a way to connect.
“It’s an amazing experience to hear an author talk about their process and share an amazing thing that they have created and to see them connect with the audience,” said Whitelam. “People have a chance to connect much more deeply if they have a chance to connect with the author of that book.”
The largest part of Whitelam Books’ customer base is from Reading, but they have people coming in from all over. This became apparent to Whitelam during the pandemic through their delivery services, which they have always done and continue to do. Some of the other communities that Whitelam Books serves have asked for a second location, which is something Whitelam considers keeping an eye on.
In the meantime, Whitelam intends to add more to their game and toy inventory, per customer requests and plans to bring back Game Nights in full force. She also hopes to continue to build on the events that Whitelam Books holds that the community enjoys and increase their work with local schools.
Whitelam is looking forward to Shop the Block this Thursday to bring back the community’s energy to downtown Reading after a couple of dormant years. Whitelam Books will offer refreshments and 20% off a shopper’s highest-priced item.
Not long after Shop the Block, Whitelam Books is delighted to be hosting prolific children’s author and illustrator Matt Tavares on Saturday, December 3, at 11am.
“He’s a big name; it’s actually quite a coup for our little store to have Matt Tavares coming,” said Whitelam.
Tavares, author and illustrator of Dasher, Red, and Lulu, and other children’s books will be doing a holiday story time centered around his recent work: a newly illustrated version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”