One of downtown Plattsburgh’s newest additions, Once Upon a Book, features the trendiest reading materials for children to young adults. Studies show that increased screen time (TV, computer, iPad, and smartphone) means decreased performance in key measures of childhood flourishing1, Once Upon a Book recognizes this growing concern parents have and is getting its message out one book at a time. “I think kids need an actual book, not a tablet,” Titherington-Raville said. Currently, Once Upon a Book is the only bookstore in our area that offers only new books to parents and young readers. With a range of sections to choose from, their customers can enjoy a picture book, a novel or a fascinating toy or game that will keep them engaged for weeks.
“There are not a lot of places where new moms can go to relax,” Titherington-Raville explained. “Here, they can put their child in our play area, walk around, pick up a book and relax or read to their child.” Created from a personal need to “get out of the house” after she had her second child, Titherington-Raville realized the benefits of opening her own business when she found there to be a lack of resources for both new parents and parents whose children have autism. Her three-year- old daughter, Arabella, was diagnosed with Autism, and as a parent she wanted to get her hands on anything that would make a difference for her child and would help her learn more about the disorder.
In partnership with The Autism Alliance of Northeastern New York2, parents of autistic readers can find a lending library at Once Upon a Book filled with “sensory books” specifically designed for children with autism. “People definitely come to our store for these books,” McCarthy explained. Among the sensory books, shoppers can also find a wide range of sensory toys and other engaging and interactive gifts. “The benefit for parents is that they can come and touch the product. It’s not a ‘guess whether or not your kid will like it,’” Titherington-Raville said. “When I shop online, I don’t know how the toy feels, if my child will like it and when I order it I have to wait several days before it arrives. Here, you know right away.”
Titherington-Raville and McCarthy are cousins and no strangers to the business world. Their parents, who are brother and sister, went into business together and ran and sold a successful business. Although they grew up with families owning a business, this is their first joint venture and the two are making a go of it in the smartest way. They both have learned about the benefits of partnership, playing off of each other’s strengths, creating trust and always looking on the bright side. “Amanda has all of the business experience I lack,” Titherington- Raville said. “Where I worry, she’s optimistic.” McCarthy chimed in, “Sometimes we have a day where no customer comes in. That hap- pens in business. But the next day we’ll get someone.” She continued, “Lori knows what’s trendy and what people are looking for. She’s creative and that makes it easy to know what to order.”
It’s clear both owners understand what is means to be in business. Whether it was running into issues with the Point-of-Sales system or learning new business skills, their optimism and passion for the busi- ness is contagious and inspiring. It’s certain that this is not going to be their only venture together. They’re already thinking long-term about this business and developing ideas about the next phase of providing toys, games, crafts, and a community gathering space.
Events and Marketing
Events and collaboration with area businesses have helped attract customers as well as grow their business. Whether it’s been their participation in events coordinated by the Plattsburgh Downtown Association, being members of the Art Walk hosted by First Weekends or coordinating their own events that create a draw to the store, community opportunities are something both owners are excited about.
“We participated with the Plattsburgh Farmer’s Market at their Kid’s Day,” McCarthy explained. “It was an opportunity to market and get out with the community.” They also host regular readings at the store and special occasion performances. “We’ve had a lot of events here and people like them. At one point we had a magician,” Titherington-Raville said. “The magician was great,” McCarthy added. They truly are creating a hands-on experience for their customers and their customer’s parents.
“People are asking for readings,” Titherington-Raville explained. With a dedicated reading area, the shop is set up for family gatherings and the ability for customers to gather, read together and interact as a community. This is a goal realized for these owners who are passionate about service and community. “Parents are looking for more interactive opportunities and we want to provide them with that experience. We’re making this more family oriented,” McCarthy said.
More than just books
What’s clear is that Titherington-Raville and McCarthy’s mission goes beyond selling books and toys. They’re providing a much needed service to the community and to families. The number of books, toys, games, and other resources they make available is matched by few. Their passion for community engagement is a companion to their commitment to finding the coolest new book series or newest game.
Included in their vision is the goal to provide products for people who are in need of sensory toys and books. This includes Alzheimer’s patients and adults with other sensory needs.
Once Upon a Book is not just a bookstore, but also a destination for families, friends and community. It’s open six days a week. Make sure to stop in for that special gift or to chat with Titherington-Raville and McCarthy. You’re sure to be welcomed and to find something interesting.