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Meet Alex Rhett of Sandcastle Tales in Del Mar

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex Rhett.

Alex, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My background is in international relations (former Congress International Relations Committee Advisor), and education (former elementary teacher from preschool to eighth grade as well as a teacher at a business college). I am also the founder of Multicultural Mothers (MuM) Groups. But my love for books, specifically children’s books, began with motherhood.

I was holding my first child in my arms, and I grabbed her first book (a little baby’s first Bible) in my other hand. Everyday I read at least five little books to my child. I was having the most delightful time ever, and I was looking forward to that special time with my little baby, a book, and me. That was magical indeed.

And ever since that intimate moment I wanted to carry on that same experience with the rest of my family. Soon, books were attached to us, like a dream is attached to sleep. Books not only invited us into their world inside, but every book we liked reflected each one of our personalities, fears, and joys.

And this is the root of our family business. Sandcastle Tales is our family dream come true!

As parents of little children, we reached the conviction in our hearts that we wanted to do something together as a family. So we were looking at and exploring different possibilities. But one thing we noticed when we visited different cities, was that our favorite thing to do as if we found a bookstore, we would immediately go in, explore and look at books, sit and read them out loud, and select some of them to take home with us. Each one of us would select one to three books, and we are five members in our family! We always ended up buying a lot of books! That was our main adventure.

We realized this may be a beautiful thing for other families and children to do as well! Our adventures were so magical, that we wanted to offer our community the opportunity to experience it for themselves and so we started taking all the steps that finally led us to open our store in Del Mar a couple of months ago.

We also wanted to add other fantastical things for children to do in our store so that families would have a place to keep on coming back for new experiences and memories. Since we are by the beach and we are Sandcastle Tales, we added sand art so people can drop by any time and do a craft. In addition to engaging story time, we also have author parties where local authors share their work in a fun way. And we plan to continue to add many more experiences that support family time, while also offering a selection of books, toys, and children’s items that will be highly appreciated by everyone, little ones and beyond!

We have been so humbled by such a positive response we have received from the community. Parents, grandparents, and kids have been so welcoming and grateful to have this little gem available in their community!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One challenge we faced was in finding a location for our store. Since my husband grew up in Del Mar and our children are in one of the local schools, we knew we wanted to serve our community. But the Village of Del Mar doesn’t have many spaces available. Then one day the perfect space (Thank you Julie’s swimwear) opened up and we were finally able to make our dream come true!

In addition, the same thing that inspired us to bring Sandcastle Tales to our community is also the thing that could challenge us.

Our little ones come first; so as a mother, I have to prioritize my children’s needs, then my work. But fortunately, we have a wonderful staff that supports us, and an amazing community that cheers us up, all the time.

Books are not new for us, but the book business industry is. However, there is a lot of help for newbies like us.

We are also challenged by the fact that we decided to offer curated children’s books only. That means we are limiting our selection and therefore the potential for more income, but as parents, we are very picky about what our kids read. So we also want to be selective in the books we offer, choosing books that fit our kids’ ages, and those that match their interests, hobbies, dreams, and our values Curated books in a small store could mean that parents may not find everything they might possibly want on hand, but we can always special order books -growing our inventory with our community book suggestions- and we believe that what they find here they will like. Our customers tell us how much they love our selection!

Will books make us millionaires? No way. But will books enrich our family? Definitely. We are serving our community, and that is a noble thing to teach our children to do; we are teaching it with books.

Sandcastle Tales – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are the only solely children’s bookstore in the region. We are located in the heart of Del Mar, in the Village shopping and restaurant area. Sandcastle Tales is just a few hundred steps from the beach!

I am the owner, book buyer, bookseller, customer service representative, decorator, curator, public relations and marketing department, events organizer, etc. I am also a mother of three little ones, plus two cute hamsters.

I am passionate to do everything I can to make my children’s life wonderful! Of course, whoever is around us, they too will enjoy all we do.

I am proud to be a children’s bookstore. Out of many businesses I could have started – out of many great business’ ideas-, this one to me is one with most service-oriented plan. Caring for the well being of families and our community is my obligation as a citizen.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moments are when people enter our store and are moved by the books they see. Books can evoke powerful memories, they can touch people deeply, and transport them to other worlds or time. When someone walks in and suddenly gets taken to a powerful place and they share that with me, that is a great, very special gift.

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Image Credit:
Kris Gabele , Light of Love Photography

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