Personnel Featured

10:10am EDT July 22, 2002

A novel use of technology

By Joan Slattery Wall

They have no fax machine, no photocopier, no cash register and only one phone line.

Yet technology brings in more than 50 percent of the business for Bryan Saums and Jane Landwehr, husband-and-wife co-owners of Fireside Book Co. in German Village.

The shop of rare and used books has customers all over the world who order by e-mail through Fireside's Website, http://www.infinet.com/~fireside, which averages 30 hits a day.

Saums, who created the Website, and Landwehr together answer about 400 e-mails a month. They also use the Internet for book searches, to share information with peers in the business, and to buy and sell from individuals and dealers.

"You have great days and then days that you almost cease to exist," Landwehr says of the retail business. "What being on the Internet and getting mail orders has done is balance that out."

It's also eliminated geographical boundaries.

World travelers who have checked Fireside's inventory on the Website often stop into the shop when they're in Columbus. Local customers visit the Website to participate in contests Landwehr devises and to read Fireside Chat, a short, twice-a-month essay on Saums and Landwehr's lives as booksellers. In addition, the site allows former Fireside regulars to remain customers after a move.

"It's the cheapest advertising you're going to get," says Landwehr, noting that a recent visitor to the shop told her he had been directed there by a friend in Germany who saw the Web page.

In addition to their shop, the Internet gives Saums and Landwehr four points of sale: the Website, a dealer-to-dealer network and two database sites. All that for $135 a month.

Asks Saums, "Can you say 'retailer's dream'?"