There’s something special about walking into an independent bookstore, as Emma Snyder, the new owner of The Ivy Bookshop can tell you, “We are transactionally selling books, but we are but we are actually selling an experience, and an affirmation of a value system that people hold that they don’t want to see eroded.” In each book, she sees the opportunity to empathize and connect to a deeply personal story, and wants the Ivy Bookshop to reflect those values– to be a creative space in the community that is humanizing for both customers and employees.
The Ivy has been a longstanding, trusted institution in Baltimore– and a key part of their success has been building a leadership style that is humanizing, and empowers and encourages staff to contribute their unique talents to the business, In addition to working toward offering more competitive wages and benefits, Emma believes that a good job is founded on cultivating a work environment where people can fully express themselves, and that small businesses like the Ivy, are particularly well-positioned to take the lead,
“People have something that they care about and love, and if you can find a way to have work tap into that it is vital, it is motivating, it is its own energy source. Too often that fear of ‘what if it doesn’t go well’ can suppress a creative instinct. Sometimes it doesn’t go right but that expenditure of resources is a learning process–people are excited about books, people are excited about this culture– anything we can do to affirm that and say yes, that’s a good managerial premise.” That investment has paid off for the Ivy– all of their current employees have been with the company for over a year or longer– a rare feat in retail, an industry with one of the highest turnover rates. Once people come to the Ivy, they don’t seem to leave.
Emma believes it is this focus on the whole individual, and creating a sense of community and connection that will help the Ivy Bookshop to be resilient in the face of changing trends in retail. “My hope as I look at the future of retail, and business, is that we use the opportunities of tech and of automation and efficiency, and the wealth creation that can go with that, to create efficiencies that allow us to be more human, and apply that to the ways that people live their lives on a daily basis.” As Emma leads the Ivy into its next chapter, her vision goes beyond growing profits, “My role is to create a place that is healthy, employs people, and serves a function in the community to create a space that people can trust– that’s the ideal of business. Everybody knows each other and what they are excited about, it’s a generative force.”