When Emöke B’Racz, owner of Malaprop’s, travels and visits other bookstores, she is looking to get a feel for the store and the town as a whole. This naturally flows from her business “spirit” that inextricably connects Malaprop’s and Asheville. It is her intention that Malaprop’s emulate and enhance the energy of Asheville’s community, without which Malaprop’s would not exist. The vision to which B’Racz has always remained true is that Malaprop’s has to be good enough for her and for Asheville.
B’Racz believes in fostering a culture, “This is not a football game or a competition. If you want slavery, then go to corporate.” She believes in fair trade which many do not. Simple is good; do not gouge your customers or your employees. She remains open to feedback from everyone and is willing to make changes that make sense and reveals that because Malaprop’s is a small store, changes can be made in a ‘skinny minute’. Her management approach is not one of supervision. Instead, she prefers to hire well by looking for the person with the talent she needs, then turns it over to them entrusting them to do their job. This approach is obviously working for Malaprop’s since she has only had to ask 4-5 people to leave her employ in 30 years of successful business. This frees B’Racz up to do the things she loves most which include placing book orders, rearranging the store to keep things fresh, and interacting with the customers.
As one of over 1500 independent bookstores in the country, Malaprop’s is one of the most renowned nationally. This is easily attributed to B’Racz’s approach to business and the joyful testaments of her customers. She happily shared with me that there is growing interest among younger people in the spirit and energy that independent bookstores offer. This is demonstrated in the fact that 55 new indie bookstores have opened in the country over the past year. Exciting news for indie bookstore fans to say the least!
Employees are happy working at Malaprop’s with the sense that they are a part of something greater. B’Racz fosters this sense of community with her protective and caring attitude towards those who work for her. I recall walking into the store shortly after the announcement that a large chain bookstore was coming to town. Expecting to find things feeling tense and chaotic, it was a delightful experience to find things calm, centered and functioning as usual. B’Racz’s explanation for this is, “We are nothing but energy. That makes us somewhere people want to be. If you only keep an eye to the money and worry, the energy will not be good. You must keep doing what you are doing and cultivating the good feeling people come here to enjoy.” And that’s what makes Malaprop’s everyone’s favorite Indie bookstore…in the world!
Written by Michele Bryan