Bookstore Interview – Deb Sundin of Unlikely Story

Bookstores are magical places: shops where you walk in and are immediately presented with thousands of portals to other worlds. But we also hear a lot about the difficulty of maintaining an independent bookstore nowadays, with quickly changing technology and ease of online ordering. Despite that, a great number of independent bookstores are thriving. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Deb Sundin, the General Manager of An Unlikely Story, a bookstore and café in Plainville, MA.


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Besides having a gorgeous interior, An Unlikely Story has a few more claims to fame: Jeff Kinney, author of DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, purchased the bookstore in 2012, as The Sun Chronicle describes. It has been featured in The New York Times, Boston Globe, CBS News, and more. Poets & Writers even said that the owners “have created a cornerstone in downtown Plainville” with the opening of the store. The store also has a power-packed lineup of authors visiting for signings and events, including Gregory Maguire and Kristin Cashore.

Deb Sundin is the General Manager of this fascinating bookstore, and I hope you’ll enjoy her interview below, about her career and the bookstore business, as much as I did. You can find all the ways you can connect with Deb and An Unlikely Story right after the post.


1. How did you first get into the bookstore business?

I entered into the book business as my second career, previously I worked in the financial services industry. I was inspired to open my own bookstore 16 years ago when I was volunteering in the school library where my kids went to school. Though that only lasted 5 years, bookselling became such a big part of my life that I could not imagine leaving it. From my store I worked as a manager at Wellesley Booksmith for 7 years and then went to work at An Unlikely Story as General Manager.


2. What have you found most challenging about the bookstore business?

The margins in bookselling are small and we are always trying new events, activities and products to increase our margins. There is a saying in the book business that to make a small fortune in bookselling you have to start with a large fortune. It has never been more true; competition from Amazon and department stores like Target is as present as ever.


3. What is something that surprised you about the bookstore business?

When I first started in the bookselling business, I was amazed at how supportive and helpful the community of independent booksellers is. We are all working towards the same goal of sharing books with the world and we want all of us to survive. We are happy to help other stores by sharing our experiences, both good and bad, on everything from running events to ordering books to training booksellers. It is a truly committed and encouraging community.


4. What makes An Unlikely Story stand out?

We feel we have a unique product in the look and feel of our store, the expertise and service our booksellers provide to our customers and the events we are able to offer, including Jeff!


5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you recommend people pick up?

My fiction pick for the holiday season is Gregory Maguire’s HIDDENSEE. In this book, Maguire creates the backstory of the Nutcracker. My non-fiction pick for the season is THE CODE GIRLS by Liza Mundy. Liza Mundy does a brilliant job of describing the tedious work 10,000 women did during World War II in deciphering the codes that the Japanese and Germans were using to communicate with their military.



Here are the ways you can connect with Deb and An Unlikely Story!

Visit their site.

Follow them on their Facebook page.

Follow them on Twitter.

Follow them on Instagram.

Last but not least, visit them in person!

An Unlikely Story
111 South Street, Plainville, MA, 02762
Phone: (508) 699-0244


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