Turning the page towards a new venture has been a golden decision.
Independent bookstore Yooneek Books was awarded gold for best new business in the 2022 Western Wheel Readers’ Choice Awards along with silver for gift shop and silver for place to spend last $10.
“It’s huge for us,” said Sean Byerley, who co-owns the business with his wife Rae-Lynne. “It’s nice to know that what we’ve been doing has made an impact on the community and all of the people that have come here and supported us since we’ve opened.”
For the owners, customer service has been the key to grabbing a foothold in the community.
“People come in here just to see (Rae-Lynne) and ask for suggestions and find books and bring baked goods and all sort of stuff,” Sean said. “The relationships she’s developed with all of the customers over the last year has been huge.
“A huge portion of our business is supporting people with any sort of strange request for something we might not have at the store. We jot it down and we make sure we will get it in. That keeps them coming back, I think, knowing that they can rely on us to bring in something they’re looking for that we might not normally stock.”
For Rae-Lynne, the relationships forged with customers are what she’s particularly grateful for, she said.
“The community is telling us, in a way, that you guys are on the right track,” Rae-Lynne said. “This is what the community needed and we hear that often, ‘Thank you for bringing this to our community.’”
Those relationships were never more evident than when the Byerleys announced what it was facing earlier this year when their son Kolton was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The teen has since undergone surgery, 30 sessions of radiation treatment and is now undergoing chemotherapy.
Sean’s parents and sister-in-law have helped the family to staff the store and the offers to help have extended even further.
“When people found out about that you would not believe how many people we don’t even know from Okotoks and the community that volunteered to work here for free,” Sean said. “It was unreal, there were so many people and I felt bad saying, ‘No, no we’ll figure this out.’”
“It was extremely kind,” Rae-Lynne added. “I knew then that they want us here, they want us to stay. That was huge, for us.”
Both their sons, Weston and Kolton, have played active roles in the business as well, getting to see firsthand what goes into entrepreneurism.
The company passed the one year since opening milestone in mid-September.
“We just hope to keep going and keep growing,” Sean said. “We’ve seen what a year looks like now and there was a lot to learn in that year for us.
“Year two, we have a better idea now what that’s going to look like.”