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Failing bookstore turns a new page on success

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-05-27 09:28

CHONGQING -- After suffering losses for 19 consecutive years, Yang Yi, a bookstore owner in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, surprised everyone by deciding to add investment to his business.

Yang took 5 million yuan ($720,000) from his own pocket to expand the bookstore from its original city centre 500 square meters to a new 1,600 square meter location in a quieter corner of the city beside Yangtze River.

In addition to over 200,000 books, the store now houses a small amphitheater, study and meeting rooms, an art gallery, a cafe and teahouse, all harmoniously blended into the broader atmosphere of a booklover's paradise.

After graduating from university in 1983, Yang had been a university teacher for five years before a career change towards business in early 1990s. In 1998, he invested most of his savings into a bookstore in downtown Chongqing.

"My goal was always to give back to society after I earned some money, and I decided to do that via opening a bookstore. Books made me into the man I am today and I want to give others the same opportunity," Yang said.

But with the rise of online shopping, e-readers and the multiplying sources of entertainment in China, Yang's bookshop has been running on empty ever since its establishment, loosing over one million yuan last year alone.

In order to warm up "the coldest corner" of the commercial district, Yang turned the bookstore into a cultural destination for the city's literature and art lovers. He arranged recitals, concerts, plays and book launches to draw in new customers. Gradually, the bookstore gained a reputation for its cultural entertainment, and audiences grew especially during the weekends.

"My dream to run a bookstore has been fulfilled. Now I'm working towards another dream, which is promoting science," said Yang. "I am committed to enlightening youth in their pursuit of science."

Scientific books are displayed prominently around the store, and scientific models have been placed on the shelves to engage attention.

After years of continued effort, scientific titles have started hitting the store's bestseller list, which Yang said was very rare for Chinese bookshops.

Yang's persistence and hard work have been recognized by the local government, which awarded him a grant to support the city's brick-and-mortar bookstores. The district government even established a branch library inside the bookstore, with Yang looking after its management.

Accompanied by a book and a cup of coffee, Huang Yuxuan spent a comfortable afternoon in the library, located up a spiral staircase from the center of the store.

"I come here at least twice a week. I'm so glad this bookstore exists," she said.

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