Meant to be

Kismet Books is the latest to open in Verona’s Matts House.
06 Startup Kismanbooks Issue 1
Photograph by Renee Sporle

Built around 1850, the Matts House in Verona has undergone moments of majesty and disrepair. Among its long history of uses, it served as a residence to the Josiah Matts family, a post office, a floral shop, a car dealership, and most recently The Purple Goose clothing store.

When it was at its worst, the once-dilapidated structure was eyed for demolition until the city of Verona finally sought requests for proposals to revive the building. In 2016, it selected Troy Rost, president of Lake Effect Properties and co-owner of 1847 at the Stamm House in Middleton, to restore the structure. Rost bought the Matts House for $1.

Now it’s home to Kismet Books, an independent bookstore owned by Rye Kimmett, 31, a relatively new transplant to the area. In 2015, the Kimmetts relocated to Verona from South Carolina when Rye’s husband accepted a position with Epic.

High school sweethearts, they had long dreamed of opening a bookstore, so when Rye learned The Purple Goose would be relocating, she signed a three-year lease with Rost.

She also checked out the UW–Madison Small Business Development Center and contacted the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., which steered her toward a Kiva small-business loan. A GoFundMe campaign raised another $3,000.

A voracious reader, Kimmett had no retail experience. Her first task was stocking the shelves with books and audiobooks to suit any age. “It’s a huge investment,” she admits. “The challenge is always not buying enough or buying too much, so you need to keep your finger on the pulse.”

Kismet Books opened last November in the midst of the pandemic. While some might consider that poor timing, Kimmett says it bought her time to ease into her new business venture. “We knew what we were getting into, unlike many businesses that were open before the pandemic hit and really had to pivot.”

The only thing she hadn’t planned on was the impact Wisconsin weather has on walk-in traffic, which ebbs and flows like the temperatures.

The store includes a collection of books and artwork from local and regional authors and artists, and she’s particularly jazzed about the children’s area.

“The best part of being a bookseller is seeing a child getting excited about reading,” Kimmett says. She and her husband have two children, a three-year-old whose favorite book is Hug Machine by Scott Campbell, and a nine-year-old who has already expressed a desire to own the book shop one day.

Kimmett’s next goal is creating an events venue she can lease for small parties and gatherings. To help with that dream, she’s hoping to hire a part-timer sooner rather than later. “Paying myself would be great but I have to look for help first,” she shares, thankful that her husband’s salary helps cover costs.

At press time, the 2,500-square-foot store was limited to no more than 10 masked shoppers at a time due to COVID protocols. Private shopping opportunities are available, and books can also be ordered through the store’s website.

Kimmett, originally from Michigan, grew up a “military brat” whose family lived in various locales throughout her formative years, an experience that profoundly shaped her perspective on life.

“It changes the way you look at friendships,” she says. “You realize nothing lasts forever, so you need to make the most of what you have and live in the moment.”

For Kimmett, that moment is now.

Kismet Books
101 N. Main St.
Verona, WI 53593
(608) 845-2500
kismetbookshop.com

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