Service makes the difference at Appletree Books
View Image Gallery
Not many Cleveland Heights residents can say they have lived in the community since World War II, and not many Cleveland Heights merchants can say they have been in business for two decades. Jane Kessler, owner of Appletree Books, can say both of these things.
Kessler was a professor at Case Western Reserve for 39 years. After retiring from her teaching career, Kessler decided she was not through with the working world. In 1990, she bought Appletree Books. Now, after 21 years as owner, and at 90 years of age, Kessler is still serving the reading community of Cleveland Heights.
Her transition from professor to business owner was not as calculated as most business acquisitions. Kessler said she chose to purchase Appletree Books because it was there, and because she could afford it. From the moment Kessler purchased Appletree Books, she was faced with several dilemmas: how to determine the future of her bookstore, compete with large bookstore chains, and stay in business.
Kessler did not know how to solve any of these problems at the time, but she did recognize the importance of something every other bookstore was ignoring—service. Kessler soon extended store hours into the evening and opened the store on Sundays. Service would be Appletree Books’s calling from then on.
“While most bookstores were getting bigger, I just held my breath and did my best to serve the community,” said Kessler.
Recently, Kessler got some unexpected help. Large chain stores, like Borders and some Barnes and Noble locations, began to close, and Appletree lost some competitors.
Today, Kessler is doing all she can to serve the community, while competing with online stores like Amazon.com. She is “constantly” in touch with publishers, purchased computers to facilitate communication with them, and orders books as often as four times a week.
Appletree Books also does something that most large bookstore chains do not, Kessler explained. “Appletree Books goes into the community. We hold outside events at local restaurants, we go to libraries, we go to city clubs, and we go to book signings,” said Kessler.
Kessler believes 50 percent of her sales come from off-site selling, and that her dedication to serving the community all over the city keeps her around. In the near future, you can find Appletree Books offering books for sale at the Cedar-Coventry Author Series. (Visit the Coventry Village Library events calendar at www.heightslibrary.org, for a list of dates and featured authors.)
Appletree Books is located at 12419 Cedar Road. Kessler encourages book lovers to come to her store not only for books, but to start a conversation. While the purchase of Appletree Books may have been somewhat accidental, the service that has kept Kessler in business for over 20 years has been anything but chance.
Jim Perkins is a student at John Carroll University and a Heights Observer intern.