Bruce Jacobs and Carolyn Sakowski opened Watermark Books in 1977 in downtown Wichita. They created a beautiful store where readers could buy books and build community through their love of literature.
It is now 2023 and the need for community and connection borne from a love of reading and books is as strong as ever. The book business—not to mention retail, in general — is remarkably different than in 1977, ever-evolving with new challenges and seismic shifts in shopping trends.
Although the store began with three employees, it now has a staff of 23. In 1996, Sarah Bagby became majority owner and moved Watermark Books from the original beautiful historic downtown building (that still stands and is a used and rare books store by appointment or chance) to Lincoln Heights Village, the first strip mall in Kansas, located in the historic College Hill neighborhood. We added our made-from-scratch café, and it has been an integral part of our business model. Watermark Books & Café was instrumental in revitalizing retail on all four corners of Douglas and Oliver.
Watermark Books & Café has introduced thousands of authors to the Wichita Community including James Lee Burke and Stephen King, Liane Moriarty, and Louise Penny, in addition to a cornucopia of ones you may never have heard of. You can always look forward to great author events. To hear an author proclaim their love of Watermark and Wichita is so gratifying. These sentiments are because of you, our supportive Wichita community.
Our services have grown tremendously. In addition to retail book sales, we have published many highly acclaimed books, including Leaving Las Vegas by John O’Brien, Grasslands by Deb Seely, and Radiating Like a Stone: Wichita Women and the 1970s Feminist Movement by Myrne Roe, under Watermark Press Publishing. Distribution services are also available for business/publisher clients, authors, and other entities. We ship 1000s of books each year through our online commerce platform and host authors to coordinate signed copy distribution for shipping all over the world.
Over the years we have witnessed firsthand how valuable it is for children to meet and connect with authors. We formed the Authors in Schools Fund, in conjunction with the Wichita Foundation and USD 259, with the express aim of providing author experiences and books to each child in attendance. Sometimes, that will be the first book the child will own. To achieve this, the Foundation’s focus is to target Title 1 schools in the Wichita School district; schools we large concentrations of low-income students.
If you are reading this, you are familiar with Watermark Books & Café. If not, please peruse our website for general information about the store and to buy books. Whether you are choosing a book for yourself or a family member, client, friend, or child you will find exactly the right one.
Thank you to Wichita and the global community who support Watermark Books and Café. We are committed to you and are honored to be your preferred bookseller and a gathering place to connect with friends and the community.