Business

Booking big business

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Many people reach a point in their lives where they question the path they are on. After 20 years working in marketing for Scientific-Atlanta Inc., Gwinnett”s Perry Tanner had traveled the world, but felt he was no longer challenged at work. Deciding to make a change, Tanner retired and chose to buy the Atlanta-area chain of Chapter 11 Bookstores. Now, Tanner is more successful than ever, and he gets the added bonus of seeing his wife and three children each and every day.

"Scientific-Atlanta is a global company, but being in a corporate position in a corporate office, I found I missed the challenges of hands-on profit and loss responsibility. I had spent several years on the road working for Scientific-Atlanta and decided it was also time to work close to home," says Tanner.

Tanner”s venture into retail came from his broker”s suggestion to purchase Chapter 11, a 12-year-old retailer that operated 13 stores in the Atlanta area.

The founding owners had a profitable company, but they were also looking to move on in their lives. Reviewing the company”s market share, which was three percent of the Atlanta area in a home of 450 bookstores, Tanner recognized its opportunity for growth and revenue.

To him, it would be a win-win situation.

"I knew I didn”t want to be involved with anything that involved manufacturing or research and development. I wanted to be involved in a business where I was involved in everything," says Tanner. "I”m not on the road or on a plane, and for the first two years I was so hands-on that I changed lightbulbs and packed up boxes of books."

Tanner completed his purchase of the bookstores in August 2002, and promptly set upon the task of opening more stores. His goal? To open at least one or two stores each year. His first store opening was in March of 2003 in Lawrenceville, and he has since opened two more bookstores in the Gwinnett area.

Next, Tanner sought to change the look of Chapter 11, which was considered strictly a discount retailer. Keeping the stores” offerings discounted, Tanner used his marketing background to review demographics and find the most popular books in which to stock each store. He also brought in authors for book signings. Last year, Chapter 11 featured visits by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Most recently, Suze Orman, financial expert, television host and frequent magazine contributor, appeared at the Chapter 11 Lenox Square location.

"Having authors visit stores is just a way to distinguish ourselves from other bookstores," says Tanner. "When I purchased Chapter 11, the store”s official name was “Chapter 11 – the Discount Bookstore with Prices

so Low, You”d Think We Were Going Bankrupt.” We”ve since changed it to “Chapter 11 – Your Neighborhood Bookstore,” because that”s truly what we are. Sure, we still sell discounted books, but that”s not all we are."

While switching gears to run a re