By the book


Mudsock Books’ owner Cindy Rushton talks about owning a small bookstore in the age of Amazon

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Four years ago, Cindy Rushton made a risky decision: She opened a small, independent bookstore along 116th Street in Fishers.

Now located at11850 Allisonville Rd., Mudsock Books & Curiosity Shoppe is favored by loyal customers and local authors alike. And Rushton, a 35-year Fishers resident, says despite the risk, she’s happy to be doing what she loves.

“I love books. I love bookstores,” Rushton, 56, said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Twenty-five years ago, Rushton said, she drew up a business plan for a children’s bookstore. At the time, her three daughters, Carmen, Megan and Heather, were still young. So, she found work as an accountant and raised her children for 25 years with husband Bill.

In 2008, Rushton decided it was time to dust off her business plan and give it a go.


A cat to greet you


Visitors to Mudsock Books will likely be greeted first by Ralph, a grey, six-year-old cat who makes the store his home.

“He’s my PR person,” Rushton said. “And, generally a pest.”

One you get past the very friendly Ralph, there is no shortage of inventory to look through. Rushton said that, despite the relatively small size of her current location, she regularly keeps 20,000 books in stock. The store also carries non-book items, notably a large assortment of “Melissa and Doug” children’s toys.

While new books still hold a slim majority of her total sales, Rushton said she’s been surprised by how much of the revenue comes from items without a hard or soft cover.

“Non-book items are probably almost as important as books, because the profitability is higher,” Rushton said. “Melissa and Doug items probably account for 20 percent of my sales, just from that line alone. But new book sales are probably still 50 percent of my business.”

Meet Cindy Rushton

Owner of Mudsock Books & Curiosity Shoppe

Husband: Bill

Children: Carme, Megan and Heather (3 grandkids)

Cats: Ralph, George and Little Bit

Hobbies: Active in church, reading and taking care of her grandchildren

Favorite books:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  3. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  4. Mark of the Lion (series) by Francine Rivers
  5. The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

To keep Ralph busy greeting customers, Rushton hosts regular events at the store, among them book clubs, birthday parties and regular author signings, typically held two-to-three Saturdays a month. While most of the visiting authors are local, Rushton said some have been more recognizable, including writer/illustrator Michael Berenstain, son of Stan and Jan Berenstain, creators of the Berenstain Bears.

Since she began offering authors a table at her store on Saturdays, Rushton said she’s been surprised by how regularly they’ve taken her up on the offer.

“There are far more (local authors) than I ever thought,” Rushton said. “It amazes me how many local authors there are in this area.

“I have a lot of admiration for those authors, because they’re coming in here practically selling their souls trying to sell these books. For most of them, it’s a second job. It’s something they like to do. It’s not something they’re going to make money on.”


Life of the small bookstore


“Amazon … is our biggest competitor,” Rushton said. “They sell bestselling books cheaper than I can purchase them from my distributor. And they don’t collect sales tax.Indianahas made a deal with them that they’ll start collecting sales tax by 2013, I think, but I’m not sure how many businesses can survive another year with that kind of inequity.”

IMG 1005Aside from the online giant, Rushton faces competition from big box stores like Barnes & Noble, and even supermarkets like Marsh and Wal-Mart. But, she said, that doesn’t mean all the cards are stacked against her.

“It helps when a book gets big and the grocery stores didn’t anticipate it,” Rushton said. “I guess an advantage that small bookstores have is we can make changes faster. We don’t have stock holders we have to turn to for decision-making.”

Big-name book series like “The Hunger Games” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” can bring business into the bookstore as well, Rushton said, adding that, although she doesn’t understand why it’s suddenly become popular, she hasn’t been able to keep the latter series on her shelf.

Although business grows slowly – Rushton said she still takes an occasional accounting job to help pay the bills – the volume of people the bookstore owner has met through the store has been an unexpected benefit, she said.

“I have many loyal customers, and many have become new friends,” she said. “When we moved the store two years ago, I probably had 20 customers come help move boxes, move shelves. That was pretty wonderful.”

Mudsock Books is located at 11850 Allisonville Roadin Fishers. The store is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. More information about the store can be found online at, or by calling 317-579-9822.