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New York City
June 2002

Do You Want To Own a Bookstore?
By Tom Kertes

"[To operate a bookstore] you must love reading books...and you must enjoy talking about books to other people," says Harris Healy III, the President of Logos, a pleasantly relaxing bookstore on a shady York Avenue block on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Logos, like its owner, dares to be different.

"I'm kind of an American expatriate living in America," Healy says. "What I mean is, I live kind of an overseas existence right here in New York. At least once a week I see a French movie. And, on television, I find myself drawn much more to the British shows than to the rote Hollywood product."

Yet, Healy is profoundly steeped in American culture as well. He has to be. He says, "in order to be successful book-store manager, you must keep up with what interests people, and be curious about - and really interested in - what they want." At the same time, Healy feels that his responsibility goes beyond that.

"You also have to do your best to educate, to get people beyond the hype," he said. "Running a bookstore you really have a chance to impact on peoples' tastes, to get them to read books of quality that may be different, that might be outside of the ordinary group of extremely popular books everyone wants to read at certain times."

Healy has that chance because Logos is a medium sized neighborhood bookstore that is surviving in an age when huge conglomerates are nearly taking over the bookselling-market.

Although Healy was interested in the business of books and publishing since his school days, he began his job at Logos almost by accident.

"I was Director of Marketing of the Brooklyn Opera Society," he says. "And when, in the mid 1980s, the owner decided that there was no real future for a small non-profit opera company in Brooklyn, I applied for a part-time salesclerk job at Logos."

Healy enjoyed doing sales and interacting with the customers so much that, moving up on the corporate ladder with the speed of lightning, he became manager by 1990, and President and principal shareholder in 1991. "It satisfied my need to serve, to widen peoples' horizons," he says. "I wanted to expose people to a different type of literature. I wanted to show them that it's okay to be yourself, to dare to be different, to avoid the hype."

Originally, Healy wanted to serve in the ministry. He attended elementary school in New York and France and studied history and romance languages at Hamilton College in upstate New York. After graduating from Hamilton he attended the Drew Theological School in Madison New Jersey "for both spiritual reasons and for a basic conversion to the Christian thought," he says. After changing life-course, he now has Logos specialize in religious literature and books.

"Of course, we serve the general market as well," says Healy. "And our other specialty, children's books, recognizes the foremost need of the neighborhood."

Indeed, Logos, which in Greek means "The Word," does much to be a signal part of the community, using its picturesque back garden to host everything from community meetings, to summer parties, to theater and comedy performances, to staged readings by well-known authors.

"We also have a monthly book club-we call it the Kill-Your-TV Reading Club ˝that people really seem to enjoy," says Healy. "Probably because it's very democratic both in its choice of books and in participation."

And, what is his advice to prospective young bookstore owners? "Love books," Healy smiles. "Enjoy talking to people. Learn to really listen. Then learn the business side. Be aware of what's going on in the culture. Yet know how to separate real value from hype."

"And don't ever think that this will be a profession where you can relax, sit, and read books during business hours," concludes Healy. "If anywhere, you'll be doing your reading at home. Running a bookstore is more than a fulltime job."#

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