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Updated: July 24, 2023 Shop Talk

Q&A: Auburn bookstore founders embrace entrepreneur mentality: "Do it scared"

Photo | MONICA BENEVIDES Courtney Galicia is co-owner of A Great Notion in Auburn with her husband, Tyler.

Millennial couple Courtney and Tyler Galicia took the plunge earlier this year and opened the doors to their first business: the independent bookstore A Great Notion. The pair have backgrounds in education, setting them up for this career pivot. While Tyler continues teaching high school English, Courtney left her job as a school adjustment counselor to run the shop during the school year. Since the store opened in February, they’ve focused on fostering a book-loving community, dedicating time to open and host book clubs and reading events for children and adults.

So, let’s get the big question out of the way, fully recognizing that I personally 100% believe in the value of independent bookstores, why did you think opening a bookstore was a good idea now?

Courtney: It was what was best for us, our souls, our family, and our future. Selfishly, we needed it, but we knew Auburn didn't have anything like that. As soon as the location fell into place, the entire picture came together.

A bio box about the A Great Notion Owners, Courtney and Tyler Galicia
A bio box about the A Great Notion Owners, Courtney and Tyler Galicia

We have an awesome real estate agent we’ve worked with, who is basically a friend at this point. She showed us this location, and we were sold. It’s wheelchair accessible, it has a bathroom, and it’s small but not too small. It was just cozy enough. That really solidified it for us.

Did either of you have business-running experience before?

Courtney: Not really, although Tyler’s dad owns a business. We’ve always looked at owning a business as a very empowering thing to do. We were originally planning to do this 30 years later, as a retirement plan.

Do you have a sense of who your target audience is?

Courtney: We’re big fiction fans, and most of the books we have are fiction, although we do have a lot of other genres at this point, just by way of donations. Our target customer is someone well-read, who likes to pick up a blind date with a book, and the kind of person who just wants to sit on the floor and go through every book around.

You accept book donations?

Courtney: At first, we started by buying used books, essentially by the box and by genre. As soon as we began asking for donations, we started getting them rapidly. When it comes to selecting new books, we work with the book distributor Ingram.

How would you describe the store’s vibe or ethos?

Courtney: Welcoming and safe. It piques your curiosity. There are so many little niches to it. Even though we’re small, people say they feel like they still haven’t seen everything after one visit. I’ve heard others use the word whimsical; our inventory is eclectically gathered.

How do your experiences working in education inform how you approach running a bookstore?

Tyler: I’m an English teacher, so my inherent interest is to get people interested in reading. So, at A Great Notion, that’s the angle I take: I just love books, and I collect them at home. I’m trying to entice people to read further and read more.

Teaching while running a small business sounds intimidating.

Tyler: It is intimidating to some degree, I suppose. Fortunately, I am able to do my teaching, and Courtney’s able to handle the bulk of the daily business during the school year.

Courtney: I worked at high school and middle school until last year, and then decided I was ready to take a hiatus. There’s a lot of burnout, and there were just a lot of pushes in life, a lot of challenges these last couple of years. As far as how my experience goes into the bookstore, I love teaching children social and emotional learning. It’s just so important. I plan to add more book clubs, storytimes, and summer reading drop-ins where parents can drop their kids off with books to do silent sustained reading and then play games.

Do you have any final thoughts for anyone who is thinking about pursuing their dream career change?

Courtney: I saw this thing the other day, and it just clicked with me. It was about why you should quit your job in 2023. While we might not have had all the knowledge upfront about what we were about to do, we knew if we put our minds to it, we could make it work. We’ve made mistakes, but I feel like I’m becoming more of an expert every day. A Great Notion is the story of, “Okay, just do it.”

Or, do what we did: Do it scared.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Correspondent Monica Benevides.

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