Barefoot Books: Media Attention

Barefoot Books has been getting great attention from the media lately!

I just wanted to let the online community know about the exciting things that are happening with Barefoot Books.

By Patrick Ball/Staff Writer

Sitting in her colorful, cartoon-like throne inside her new store on Thoreau Street, Concord resident Nancy Traversy feels like things are coming full circle for Barefoot Books, a publishing company that’s never done things by the book.
Industry insiders told her Barefoot Books’ artistic children’s books about Isis and Orpheus were too high-brow, and that successful publishing companies built brands around authors and titles, not themselves.
That was 18 years ago. These days, Traversy said, the stars have aligned for the publishing company she co-founded with Tessa Strickland in 1992 and ran out of her London flat.
“When I say we’re multicultural, people get it. When I say we’re a green publisher, they appreciate it. And I feel like people are going back to the simpler kind of family activities,” said Traversy, Barefoot’s CEO. “And I feel kind of vindicated. Now it’s all about the brand. You have to brand yourself because consumers call the shots. So if you don’t have a brand that says something, you’re stuck.”
When she says things have come full circle, Traversy means she’s bringing the brand back home. Only now she lives in Concord, not far from the flagship Barefoot Books store she just opened on Thoreau Street.
The brightly colored and richly decorated bookstore features Barefoot’s more than 400 titles, puppets, puzzles games and dress-ups. A storyteller’s throne is on one side of the register and a storyteller’s caravan is on the other. Through the caravan is the reading room, where brightly colored tables and chairs offer space for meetings, workshops, birthday parties, music and classes.
“I want it to be something where we can offer something back to the community, a place people can gather,” Traversy said of the 2,000 square-foot destination bookstore and community center. “They can grab coffee from Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, and I don’t care if they bring it in my store, and they can sit and watch their kids come in and get lost in something magical.”
Being Barefoot
Barefoot Books is an independent children’s book publisher with offices in Bath, U.K., and Cambridge, where the flagship store used to be located. They also have a boutique at FAO Schwarz in Manhattan.
“I loved Cambridge,” Traversy said, “But it wasn’t my community, and it wasn’t enough space to do events properly. The parking was terrible, and the Cambridge demographic skews a little younger, and they move out to the suburbs and never really get Barefoot.”
Barefoot is about exploration, inclusion and authenticity. It’s about publishing books with layers and high-quality art to match. And it’s about connecting with the community instead of being corporate.
“We’re about inclusion and commonalities in different cultures,” said Traversy. “Authenticity is really important to us. We don’t want to dumb down to kids, but we don’t do any nonfiction. We believe in storytelling; Barefoot is really about imagination.”
 They take one-offers about princesses and build them into anthologies. They tackle Arthurian tales and “Arabian Nights” and seek out experts so the illustrations are suited to the subject matter. But Barefoot’s bestseller remains “Animal Boogie,” a book that came out of a song Tarversy’s kids were singing one day.
The most radical thing about Barefoot is how they sell the books.
Years ago, Traversy pulled out of the big chain stores, and now they have an “Ambassador” program through which 4,000 individuals sign up and sell Barefoot books however they want — be it at farmers markets, house parties, book fairs or small stores.
“I got to the point with the chains that it was so stressful, and I’ve been doing this so long that I wanted to work with the people I liked and who appreciate what we do,” Traversy said. “And I know those people are out there. Ultimately, my goal is to bring any kind of retailer into this model, but it’s going to take time.”
Barefoot Books, at 89 Thoreau St., will hold its grand-opening celebration beginning Friday, June 4. Barefoot will donate a portion of the proceeds from the opening weekend to the Concord Education Fund.

 Happy Reading!
~ LadyD

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” — C. S. Lewis

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