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West Jordan Journal

A great find; books at The Story Cupboard

Jan 06, 2023 10:43AM ● By Linda Steele

Sarah Carlson (second woman from the left) with her employees and local author Christian Heidecker (second from the right). (Photo courtesy of The Story Cupboard)

Sarah Carlson, sole proprietor of The Story Cupboard, and her sister, started the company in 1994 in their parents' dining room. Carlson had been teaching English through a sister city program in Matsumoto, Japan, Salt Lake City’s sister city. “While in Japan I noticed the children loved American picture books. I had taught and arranged book fairs with them. After an adventure in Japan, we decided to share great kid’s books with kids, parents and schools here in the great Salt Lake area.” 

Carlson’s two sisters, Cathy and Liz, were an integral part of starting the business. Later her sisters went off and did other things, leaving her the sole proprietor of The Story Cupboard. While working together, they had wonderful opportunities to bring national and local authors to do signings at schools. “We have made many wonderful friends in the schools and publishing world over a quarter century of book selling,” Carlson said. 

The Story Cupboard held their first event in Japan. Carlson arranged to do book fairs with the schools she has been teaching at in Japan. The sisters had big ideas about the fair doing great, and it did do very well. It was also a learning experience. They shipped 60 boxes of books to Japan, but they didn’t sell everything. They didn’t anticipate that shipping the books back would quadruple the cost. They wondered what to do with all the books. They went around to different stores and offered the books at a lower rate, but that is not how business is done in Japan, they have relationships with their providers.

It was Christmas time and her sister had gone home. They had anticipated being done selling the books in 10 days. Carlson was in Osaka, Japan trying to figure out what to do.  She was at a train station when she saw a Haagen-Dazs shop. She went in to cheer herself up. She started talking with a woman from Brazil and mentioned what she was doing with the books. The woman told her about a company that sold things to America and Canada and that they were starting a line of books. The business was shut down for the holidays, but eventually Carlson was able to meet with Chuck from the company Foreign Buyers Club in Kobe, Japan. FBC said they would buy all the books. The company was also able to get cheaper shipping back to the US.

Both back home, the sisters decided to try doing bookfairs here. It was easier to do business in the US because they understood how business is done here. They started calling schools and found out there were some other sisters that had been doing bookfairs here but were ready to be done with the business. The other sisters were excited to find people who could take over the bookfairs. 

Carlson had been teaching English here at home for a few years when things started picking up with the bookfairs, providing enough to sustain Sarah and her sister. She ended up quitting her teaching job to work fulltime  The Story Cupboard. 

The Story Cupboard goes into schools in West Jordan such as Bennion Elementary, Frost Elementary, North Star Academy, Mountain West Montessori. They do women’s businesses and partner with businesses that benefit schools. “It is important to my sisters and I to provide good quality books to schools and families. It is important to us to go through the books, read them and select books very carefully. We all love reading, and it is such a good adventure to lose yourself in a good book, it is so wonderful to be able to share that,” Carlson said. 

The Story Cupboard does fundraisers and partners with businesses to benefit schools, and the bookfair impacts what books the libraries and classrooms have. Schools really like the fundraisers to benefit the schools for the needs of the students. They are working on partnering with businesses that help benefit the schools, as well. 

The Story Cupboard has a big event with Primary Children's Hospital where they give out thousands of books to patients. Customers buy books at the event and the host earns a percentage of the sales. 

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