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The Ripped Bodice
Embraced by Romance Lovers
For our Groundbreaking Independent Bookseller profiles we are introduced to a store years, sometimes decades, after it has opened. Last year, we had the unique opportunity to profile The Ripped Bodice days after its opening. Bea and Leah Koch had already created a buzz by reaching out to readers to crowdfund their bookstore. Their dream to start the country’s only bookstore devoted to the romance genre was met with a lot of support. A year later, we wanted to check in with the Koch sisters to see if their story has a happy ending.
IP: One year in, what are some of the things you wanted to do with the store (events, authors, etc) that have succeeded?
First and foremost, the community we always dreamed of creating continues to grow and thrive. We love the internet but there is something so special about having a physical space to gather with women who love the same books as you.
Our bookclub has been a wonderful success, especially in that people have formed lasting friendships from it. We also recently introduced a series of romance writing workshops that have been incredibly popular.
IP: Have there been any ideas you wanted to do, but realized they just wouldn't work in reality? Or at least don't work right now?
We wanted to offer a subscription service, and are asked if we do quite frequently. However, we quickly realized it was an entirely different business and one which we were not equipped to take on (yet).
We also recently reshelved our paranormal section after realizing that we had gone too far in separating it out into subgenres.
IP: Crowdfunding is a big part of why Ripped Bodice exists. Have you been able to maintain a relationship, as it were, with your backers?
Yes! We still get customers coming in for the first time who tell us they were original backers. And many of our original backers from the LA area are now regular customers. People come in all the time carrying our Kickstarter tote, or wearing one of our Kickstarter exclusive tees. They also tag us on social media, and we LOVE seeing those pictures.
IP: Beyond your reader community, how has Ripped Bodice been able to become part of the larger community in Culver City/LA?
We love Culver City and are so happy to be based here. We are always looking for ways to engage with the community who have embraced us so warmly, whether it’s bringing in speakers we think would appeal to the wider community or putting a table out on the sidewalk when there are outdoor neighborhood events.
IP: What has been a favorite event/moment in the last year for each of you?
Bea: Adopting my dog Fitz, who has been an incredible addition to our bookstore staff. He is so popular with customers, but he has also opened up an opportunity for us to advocate for adopting animals, something we’re very passionate about.
Leah: Bea’s thing is really about her dog and not the bookstore but I’ll allow it. There are so many moments but I think the moment we flipped the open sign for the first time on opening day will always stick with me. Also the times we’ve gotten to meet our own heroes in the industry like Beverly Jenkins, Christina Lauren and Sarah Wendell.
IP: What other insights from the first year would you like to share with readers?
It’s so much harder than we thought it would be and so much more wonderful.
We opened a bookstore as fans of a genre. It colors everything we do. First and foremost, we love these books, these authors, and this community and we feel so lucky that we get to do that everyday.
For more on the Ripped Bodice, visit the website here.
Amy Shamroe is Festival Director and Awards Coordinator at Jenkins Group. She has spent most of her adult life working in, with, and around books. Though she started her career as a bookseller, for the past eight years she has worked as a Jack of All Trades for the Awards. In her spare time, Amy enjoys traveling, sits on her local library’s Friends Board, and keeps a blog about what she reads (when she remembers to update it).