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Transplant Grows Readers and Roots in Kalamazoo

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Bookbug owner Joanna Parzakonis

Books have the ability to transport us to faraway places in our minds and what better way to find those treasures then at a local independent bookstore like Bookbug, where the creativity and inspiration is evident as you approach the storefront.

Joanna Parzakonis, owner of the store, grew up just outside of Chicago and lived for many years in Brooklyn, NY. Through years of visiting her husband's family, natives of Kalamazoo, and listening to his nostalgic stories of growing up in the city, the couple eventually decided to call Kalamazoo home.

"The announcement of the Kalamazoo Promise and my being taken by the city itself as a growing, rich, and vibrant artistic and educational hub of the Midwest, made me the driving force that brought us to Kalamazoo," shared Parzakonis.

She added that they were also fueled by their vision of a small business and were convinced that Kalamazoo was ripe for a new, independent, passionate bookstore. Bookbug was started in February 2008.

Best known as a store committed to curating, discussing, and celebrating books, store patrons can immediately feel Parzakonis' love for what she does.

Although she describes her career path as too long to keep people's attention, she described the essentials of what led her to the current role of owner as, "Two simple, crazy things: 1) a lifelong love of books and 2) a stubborn, selfish passion to do what I love most."

Parzakonis goes on to describe the best of what she does for a living as, "I get take 'work' home with me every night-and on rare, needed vacations too-in the form of great novels, breathtaking essays, beautiful poetry, and amazing children's literature. I get to 'work' with unfiltered joy from home or from anywhere in the world always, and it is the best kind of 'work' I know."

When not working Parzakonis describes what she enjoys most about the community where she lives as, "The swift ease of connecting to community here. I felt it first as a young parent in the grocery store, at the park, in the library, museum, everywhere being frequently and warmly greeted by strangers who became fast friends.

"I continue to feel that same ease with the new people I meet every day-each customer, local author/artist, school, organization, and every single creative energy in this town."

As a successful entrepreneur, it's always interesting to note what things might be helpful to those trying to make their own mark in life.

Parzakonis said, "Remembering that at the root of every success-big and small-is kindness. The relationships built with every single person in business, as in life, including customers, employees, vendors, trade colleagues, contractors, community partners, and friends are the foundation of any strong business.

"I feel pretty strongly that without humility, kindness, and gratitude demonstrated daily to such people, an entrepreneur/ business owner is nothing at all," she said.

Make a point of visiting Bookbug, an independent bookstore for all ages, located in Oakwood Plaza at 3019 Oakland Drive. Visit them online at www.bookbugkalamazoo.com and on Facebook for upcoming events or follow them on Twitter.

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