Southwestern Michigan College Bookstore Manager Cindy Most intends to make her store more about books while making it less about books.
Two weeks after her April 21 start, “I’ve got a lot of ideas about how I want to expand it in the Dowagiac community as well as on campus,” Most said. “I want to build on the good affinity this campus has with the area and let the community know this is a good place to shop and be proud to wear SMC shirts around Dowagiac.
“We’re working on how to represent ourselves as a ‘campus store’ and not just a bookstore. I’d like to see us bring in a line of general books. People still like to read and to buy paperback books. Maybe we could host some author signing events. A lot of people — and I’m one — like to have signed copies. We could showcase local authors. I’d like us to be more involved when things like Dogwood Fine Arts Festival come up.”
Most, an Iowa native who lived in both Carolinas, is a recent transplant to Michigan, now calling Gravel Lake outside Lawton home. Her husband, A.J., joins SMC’s maintenance staff May 12. The Mosts are NASCAR fans who traded their recreational vehicle for a boat.
Most brings 12 years of bookstore experience starting at private four-year Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.
At Catawba, she guided the bookstore through the transition from institutional management to Follett Higher Education Group, similar to the move SMC made last Oct. 28.
“They asked me to participate in that selection process, took my advice, picked Follett and I went to work for Follett,” she said during her May 2 open house. “I also have a degree from Catawba. From there, I went to (public) Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., where I worked almost five years.”
“I grew up in Iowa and my husband’s from Nebraska,” she said, “so this feels like coming back home to us with farming and the rural area. We like it.”
“Nobody says, ‘I’m going to be a bookstore manager.’ What happened for me was I was working for the accounting office at Catawba College. I had mastered the job and was itching to do something a little more challenging. The administrative assistant to the president said I should consider working in the bookstore, so I went to my boss and told him I was interested. He said he wanted me to manage the store, so I went in as manager and basically taught myself how to run the system and how to buy books and merchandise.
“It’s what I like to call an interesting line of retail because it’s still retail, but it’s very different because you market to your student body, work with your instructors on what they want for your students and then the other merchandise we carry in the store. Right out of college I did go into retail management with my two-year degree, but I didn’t use it too much because my husband and I started our family young. I had worked for Harlan,” a city of 5,000 in southwest Iowa, 11 miles north of Interstate 80, between Des Moines and Omaha.
“I worked for the Police Department for a while, then went into the accounting office and paid bills,” Most said. “When we moved to North Carolina in 1997, my husband managed a Midas Muffler place. This is an opportunity to bring me closer to my parents in Iowa. One of my bucket list items is to ride Amtrak, so one day soon I’ll take the train over for a visit — and I hope they’ll do that, too. I definitely want to take it to Chicago for a weekend.”
Most has three grown children. Two live in North Carolina. Her third grandchild is weeks old. “I haven’t met her yet, but my son with the new baby is moving to Mishawaka. He works for Verizon. It’s crazy how things fall together the way they do.”
Most graduated from Boone Valley High School in Renwick, Iowa, then attended the American Institute of Business in Des Moines.
“I love to walk,” she said, “so I’m looking forward to hiking the trails. I love to read. I have a full library because I buy books even when I can’t get to them because one day I am going to read them. I can read books on my iPad, but I still like paperbacks. I like reading books I can hold because I like the smell.”