The rise of large, discount franchises and the Internet only serve to inspire marketing whiz for local bookstore.
In the mid-1980s, after graduating from Sonoma State University, Tom Montan (B.A. Sociology, 1986) took a job at Copperfield’s Books. It was simply to be a summer job. But life took a detour for Montan, who is today living an endless summer. He is still with Copperfield’s and has served as a driving force in the growth and prosperity of the well-respected Sonoma County retail bookstore.
Started in 1981 by Paul Jaffe and Barney Brown, Copperfield’s now operates four stores in Sonoma County, a new store in Napa County, two used bookstores and one Internet store. Early on, Montan’s marketing skills and enthusiasm for books caught the founders’ attention, leading to his appointment as director of marketing in 1988.
Montan envisioned the bookstore as a local forum for the exchange of ideas. To stimulate such dialogue, he brought well-known authors such as Amy Tan, Leonard Nimoy, Gloria Steinem, Newt Gingrich, J.K. Rowling and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder to Copperfield’s.
“We were founded on ideals of being independent and creating a forum for ideas. This has always been our guiding force, and I am grateful that our customers have continued to embrace our goals,” said Montan.
Exploring different ways to get ahead in the ever-competitive bookselling marketplace, Montan and Copperfield’s introduced such innovations to the stores as music, in-store cafés and used books.
“Before if we had a used book, it could sit on our shelf for years. Now with the Internet, these books sell much quicker because people from all over the world are looking for unique books and they search online to find them,” Montan said.
Recently, via the Internet, Copperfield’s sold a first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass for more than $15,000.
“The Internet has become our invisible competitor — and also our marketing partner. It is everywhere,” Montan said. “While certain sections, such as computer and technical books, do very well online, people still like to touch and browse before buying. I truly believe that people will always love and enjoy shopping in bookstores no matter how many books are available online.”
And these days, the soft-spoken, unassuming Montan knows that having a few rooms filled with the latest books is not enough to satisfy the multifaceted interests of today’s sophisticated customer. This stands as his challenge and inspiration as he continues to craft Copperfield’s into a place where avid readers can browse the aisles, choosing books to leaf through and consider, and into a place of drama and activity.
Tom Montan’s dedication and commitment were recognized recently when he was selected as Copperfield’s CEO.
He lives in Sonoma County with his partner of 14 years and their two young children, one of whom is a die-hard fan of the American Girl series for young girls. He has a passion for sculpture, creating pieces out of clay and casting them into cement, plaster or concrete. Several years ago, he was involved with the now infamous sculpture entitled “The Door” in Sebastopol that caused quite a stir with residents and the community and sits today in the town center. He continues to create outdoor pieces that intrigue and amuse him.
Businessman by day, father and sculptor by night,Tom Montan has been a driving force in the growth of Copperfield’s Books, a highly successful Sonoma County business that has now expanded into Napa.