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Meet Betty Bayer of Betty’s Books

Today we’d like to introduce you to Betty Bayer.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am a former educator/librarian turned specialty bookstore entrepreneur. I worked as a museum educator, high school English teacher, and youth librarian at St. Louis Public Library.

I also stayed home with my two young children full time during the height of the pandemic. It was during that time that I took a business class about starting a bookstore through the American Booksellers Association (ABA).

The spreadsheets and data from that class in combination with manic pandemic energy that life is short made me believe I could really do this thing and create my own dream job while also contributing something special to the STL community.

A couple of other relevant details about my background that help explain why I embarked on this particular adventure:

-Entrepreneur vibes from an early age — “Cookies on Wheels” was my most successful venture before this one. It was a cookie company that I started when I moved to Iowa from Maryland at age 10. I also had a weekend car washing business before that, and, of course, lemonade stands over the young years.

-Art History Major in college; double master in English Education and Library and Information Science.

-Lifelong book lover and lover of stories (especially fantasy and sci-fi!).

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Opening the business came together surprisingly quickly. I had a plan based on the class I took, and I tackled it one step at a time. Before I knew it, it was the grand opening. I also had a lot of support from family and friends.

One challenge we did face was a cool–occasionally overtly negative–reception from people who were concerned we were trying to compete with other area bookstores.

However, once we opened and people saw how specialized our book selection was–we carry only comics, graphic novels, manga, and children’s lit–and how little overlap there was with other stores in the area, those concerns mostly dissipated.

Also, this concern emphasized to me how many people don’t realize how vast the world of graphic lit really is. It’s like they didn’t realize there could be a whole store with just these types of books! So, that aspect of this challenge was motivating to me. Part of our mission is to show that there is a graphic book out there for everyone.

Since opening, many customers have validated that Betty’s Books is a welcome addition to the neighborhood — especially our manga selection, zines, and graphic novel selection, and the welcoming atmosphere around these types of books.

Anyone can read comics, and we’re about that.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Betty’s Books specializes in comics, graphic novels, manga, and children’s lit.

In other words, books with pictures that tell a story–graphic lit–that’s what we carry. We also sell related merch and host-related events. Events so far include storytimes, craft club, manga club, Dungeons & Dragons group, game night, and local author/creator events.

Our mission at Betty’s Books is to provide a fun, welcoming space to learn about and enjoy graphic books. We love this genre, and it shows in our work every day!

Through exceptional customer service, high-quality events, and a robust selection of titles and fun sidelines, we want to be known as THE PLACE in the St. Louis area for graphic books, related events, and gifts. Whether you visit us in-store or online, we strive to apply our mission of inclusivity and family-friendliness to all elements of our business.

Also, the physical store is beautiful including a mural by Jayvn Solomon, a welcoming children’s hangout area, and all those gorgeous books.

We love surprises, fun facts, and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
I have done a triathlon, a marathon, 4 half marathons, and thru-hiked the John Muir Trail.

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