Looking back, McGee marvels at how far she's come in just two and a half years. "I got into this business not knowing a lot about it other than what I'd researched at the library," she says. "I had to roll up my sleeves and learn the distribution system and the margins, the whole nine yards. [Just a few months] before the store opened, I couldn't even have told you where the books came from."
Today, Apple Book Center boasts more than 25,000 titles and has a staff of more than a dozen full- and part-time employees, and--expecting a boost from online book sales at its recently added Web site--McGee is forecasting a 20 percent growth in sales this year. Her latest inspiration should also boost the bottom line: The "Apple Kids," nine different multicultural, three-dimensional characters with specific academic areas of interest, will be spun off into books to be released in the fall of 1999.
Propelling McGee and the Apple Book Center phenomenon is her continuing sense of mission for her younger customers. "If you're well-grounded in reading, then you're going to do better in other academics," says McGee. "Better reading skills translate into better [college educations], and that translates into better jobs," she says.
As for those dreaded superstores, at least in the case of Apple Book Center, it turns out they're only paper tigers. And McGee's fearless roar may be coming to a neighborhood near you: "We're hoping that once our cookie cutter is final, we can pick up the [multicultural-bookstore] concept and lay it down in another community, regardless of its ethnicity, and have it work there, too," McGee says. "In the long term, the Apple Book Center concept is a community giveback. Somebody had to do it, and I got chosen as the one."
Apple Book Center, 7900 W. Outer Dr., Detroit, MI 48235, http://www.applebookcenter.com