The shop is home to an actual live bunny named Lizzie, as part of a partnership with the Animal Rescue League of Boston's Dedham Shelter, as well as books written and illustrated by the store's co-owner and children's author Peter H. Reynolds. Also featured at the shop is a "book from space", a copy of Reynolds's book "The Dot" that Canadian Astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station Chris Hadfield brought to space.
Dedham Patch recently spoke with the Blue Bunny staff, including Reynolds and assistant managers Margie Leonard and Cheryl Doucette about how business was during the holidays, how things have changed in the last 10 years, and what they hope to see in the new year.
Dedham Patch: How was business leading up through Christmas?
Peter Reynolds: It was the first Christmas after the construction being over and with the brand new square, so we were excited about that. We're sensing that the economy is kicking back in. We didn't really suffer too much, because we sort of noticed that it's an old adage that children are the last to suffer. We have very loyal customers; they're kind of fearlessly loyal to our shop. It was a great Christmas for us.
Peter Reynolds: We have our 7-foot Santa Claus; people line up to have their pictures taken. We wanted to have a window that kids could peer into and get that old-fashioned sense of wonder, something you can't get from that online experience. We're certainly competing with online these days; it's a lot easier to click. We're noticing that when it comes to children's books, there really isn't a digital replacement. Parents and grandparents are still big fans of the physical book. The mission of the shop to is to preserve the things we know that work, like dinner-table conversation, play, creativity.
Cheryl Doucette: Everyone loves Santa, everyone loves carousels. I received a car at home from a family that used their picture with Santa as their family Christmas card.
Dedham Patch: Aside from Lizzie the Bunny and the "book from space", what does The Blue Bunny offer that's unique to the customer experience.
Peter Reynolds: Our particular mix here, we have books, we have toys, and we also have art supplies. Our best-selling book in the shop is the "blank book". There's actually nothing in it. I tell kids that this is my favorite book. The good thing about imagination is it can lead you anywhere, and kids need practice with the blank page. We package up all these ideas and kids consume them, but they haven't created something brand new. We're always educating parents that kids creating something out of nothing is probably the most powerful gift you can give them.
Dedham Patch: If there were one thing Dedham could do for businesses in the area, what would it be?
Peter Reynolds: The town has been very good about listening and understanding. The pay [parking] kiosks, we're finding that they're challenging for some of our customers. I understand that there has to be some kind of system for parking. Having said that, I think there is an organic way a square works, and I personally think that free parking throughout the square would work with educating people about keeping it moving. I think there's a little bit of an adjustment happening, and it may sort itself over the next year. There are people who think that you have to take your ticket back to your window, and you don't. That's really just a receipt. I know a lot of smart people worked on the parking management plan, and it's not my area of expertise, but I know that it's been a challenge.
Cheryl Doucette: The elderly especially have found it challenging to come up here to pay, and a lot of them are not as familiar with the technology. It's just not an instant thing with them and they get intimidated, and when they get intimidated, they don't stop.
Dedham Patch: What are you striving for in 2014?
Peter Reynolds: Just getting the message out to people in creative ways. The ways that people are discovering shops and businesses are changing. Social media is very big for us. We've always been a word-of-mouth shop, and we're lucky that social media is all about word of mouth, and we're a bit more direct with people about checking in on Facebook when they come. I think the other big message is we're trying to remind people that we're book sand toys; people think this is just a book shop. We also have books for adults.
Starting Monday, Dec. 30, the Blue Bunny will offer a special of 20 percent off all items in the store through New Year's week, as well as 50 percent off all Christmas merchandise. The Blue Bunny will close at 6 p.m. New Year's Eve and will be closed New Year's Day.
On Monday, Jan. 6, the shop will resume story times on Mondays and Tuesdays beginning at 10:30 a.m., and on Jan. 25 at 11 a.m., children's author Melissa Guion will visit the store for story time and book signing.