Shopping With Local, Independent Mindset

The classic big-box store vs. “shop local” debate should be put to rest, according to one local business owner.

Alan Lestini, owner and operator of Words & Music Bookshop, 4 Hyde Park Drive, does not advocate any extremes. He does, however, believe consumers should mix things up and spread their shopping around.

“People get into a rhythm,” Lestini said. “The mindset is to go to big-box stores.”

Emphasizing his and other local, independent shops as not a better choice, but a “different” one, the Ohio Valley native noted the importance of having a community sense of independence in which consumers are not tied to chains.

“I pride myself on having a local connection,” Lestini said.

With his store offering books about the area and local artwork in addition to current national bestsellers, Lestini takes interest in the town while still carrying items that nearby chains would have in stock. Appealing to a variety of audiences, Words & Music Bookshop supplies books ranging from children to young adult, history to mystery. When the independent bookstore happens to not have a requested book in stock, Lestini is happy to make a special order, touting his order time as taking a day or two at most.

As his store name also references music, Lestini added items such as the vinyl records displayed at the back of the store. He said records are “making a big comeback,” especially with younger people. In addition to selling such records, Lestini often plays them during store hours to add to the atmosphere.

“I try to offer a cozy place to read or relax,” Lestini said. “There’s free coffee and no rush here.”

Similar to his philosophy on shopping from a mix of local and big-box stores, Lestini has learned to combine the nostalgic charm of a local shop with modern consumer responsiveness to digital marketing. Instead of fighting current trends, Lestini uses them to his advantage by frequently posting products and events on social media.

“The Internet is always going to be there,” Lestini said.

He believes people today are “so connected” via technology yet are not connected with each other in terms of taking time to nurture those relationships. For a local business owner who not only sits with customers to discuss topics including theology and history, but also refers to his business as “my life,” Lestini understands the importance of relationship-building.

“I have friends who started as customers,” Lestini said.