‘The Next Chapter’ Family Tradition From Small Town in Nebraska

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February 1st, 2021

The Next Chapter Bookstore, Photo by KVNO News

Some of us often make the mistake of letting our dreams remain just a dream. Dreams can be genuine at night, but the next morning we forget about them.

But Michelle Muteum, (or Shelly, as she goes by) decided to open “The Next Chapter,” a book store near downtown Omaha, her dream came true; her dream form many years.

“It’s been in my family for 43 years actually, my parents and our family had a bookstore in Hastings since 1976,” Shelly says.

The love she has had for books since she was little is helping her to continue her family tradition.

Before facing the harsh situation that the pandemic brought in 2020 for small businesses, Shelly was determined to counter the difficult business of selling books in person since online stores began taking over the business.

Her family’s book store had already taken a hard strike when book stores were becoming less popular, but her mother was able to keep the bookstore open until last year when it was time for her to retire. Then Shelly realized that it was her opportunity to bring her family’s business to the city.

We just made the decision that she was ok with me moving it here and I opened it up under my own name. But a lot of this is from Hastings, a lot of product, a lot of merchandise, the shelving. The hearth of Hastings is here, too,” Shelly says.

Shelly and her siblings loved the bookstore, but she always had a very special interest.

Shelly graduated from Hastings College with degrees in English and Spanish. In 2000, she moved to Omaha, where she worked for some time as a paraprofessional ESL teacher. Years later, “The Next Chapter” doors opened up.

During the first months, everything went as planned. The holidays were busy days for the store and sales were high. She had found a niche on the market. She was making people happy who still preferred to walk into the book store.

The Next Chapter Bookstore, Photo by KVNO News

The Next Chapter Book Store opened in late 2019, near 25th and Farnam. Shelly felt that the course of small businesses was changing and more people were choosing to support them again.

The store got off to a good start in 2020, but then in the second quarter, an issue came up.

Then March hit and everything changed, and it was quiet. It was definitely quiet and very worried because I was looking so forward to CWS and Berkshire and just or events happening and none of them happened. Scary, but people still showed up,” Shelly says.

In the summer, Shelly began to make better use of her website for advertising and offered a curbside pick-up service. She made all the necessary changes to maintain sales.

During this time, the store did not close completely. Shelly offered to sell by appointment only and she continued with deliveries. The sale of magazines and cookbooks increased significantly.

It seems to really help. Then we got back in the fall and the holidays again and then people really showed up and supported and it has been great, despite this COVID,” Shelly says.

Furthermore, she thinks the books gave her clients something special during this difficult time. 

That is the best part of opening a book, is maybe escaping a little bit of this reality for a moment. So they [the books] provided that for people and puzzles were huge this year,” Shelly, says

Shelly continues making plans for her book store. After a year of uncertainty, the store remains open because she learned to accommodate, and most importantly she knows one thing.

It is a dream, despite it all, girls have a dream,” Shelly says.

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