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Reading Between the Lynes profits from Groundhog Day

by Ashley Lapin
Feb 28, 2013

Ashley Lapin/MEDILL

Woodstock Willie comes out to predict an early spring on Groundhog Day in northwest suburuban Woodstock.

Walking down West Van Buren Street in historic Woodstock, visitors commonly feel as if they had been transported to the movie set of a quaint and charming town. It’s not actually such a stretch considering that the movie “Groundhog Day” was filmed there.

“It’s very community oriented; it’s a step back in time,” says Arlene Lynes, who owns Read Between the Lynes. The bookstore is located at the corner of West Van Buren and South Johnson streets right in the center of the town square.

2013 is the 20th anniversary of the “Groundhog Day” release and Lynes’ store is reaping the benefits. Every year since the filming of the movie, Woodstock has held an annual Groundhog Day celebration.

Read Between the Lynes opened in 2005 and celebrated its first Groundhog Day the next year. It reached its highest volume of sales on Groundhog Day 2008. However, this year the store beat its previous sales record within the first hour of being open on the holiday.

The store’s most popular items include groundhog-themed books, hats, pins and hooded sweatshirts ranging in price from $1 to $32. The town’s Groundhog Day committee, composed of local volunteers, purchases the paraphernalia and sells it to Read Between the Lynes.

Unlike Bill Murray’s character in the film, Lynes does not get the opportunity to relive a specific day repeatedly in order to be able to modify her actions and manipulate those around her until she gets it right.

Even so, Lynes says her business has grown slowly and has been profitable for the past two years. She confirmed that her store brought in sales of more than $500,000 in 2012, which is on the higher end of estimated sales for independent bookstores according to a 2010 survey by the American Booksellers Association.

Although all 1,600 square feet of the store is devoted to books and stationery, Lynes’ next step is moving into the e-media universe. Lynes already has redeveloped the store’s website to sell e-books. The site recently went live and after training staff and making sure all technical kinks were worked out, customers can now purchase e-books from Read Between the Lynes.

Lynes said her store serves a need in the community and sales remain mostly steady throughout the year. Despite a loyal customer contingent, she still faces challenges as a small business owner.

“In this economy, people need to look at cutting [costs] wherever they want by purchasing online and using our shop as what we call a ‘showroom,’” says Lynes. “They come in, they see what they want, they leave and then they purchase it online.”

Lynes noticed an increase in the “showroom” behavior beginning in 2011.

However, Lynes is upbeat about the future. “More and more of the population is being educated and they are paying attention as smaller businesses have closed,” says Lynes. “More people who are community-oriented do realize the benefit of small businesses and what their towns could become, so they are looking at more of the big picture.”