The past three years for Wild Rumpus Books have been the best yet — a welcome surprise, considering the state of independent bookstores.

The Minneapolis-based business was founded by Collette Morgan and Tom Braun, who both had theater backgrounds and shared a love of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. It’s fitting, then, that their store is a place where drama and adventure exist around every corner.

Let’s let Tom and his team tell you more about the business.

“Wild Rumpus is probably the only bookstore that has free-range chickens,” Tom explains. “They add an element that is most unusual.” In addition, when you visit the store, you’ll find manx cats, ferrets, a chinchilla, a tarantula, an African lizard named Spike, fish, birds, and even some rats.

But that’s not all: “If you look up, you’ll see the ceiling splits open revealing ‘the sky,’ and a garden shed at the back of the store gives you a feeling of being outside,” adds marketing consultant Felicity Britton.

Events keep things interactive — and busy!

Continuing its commitment to make reading an interactive experience, Wild Rumpus hosts regular events, such as trolley rides and author appearances. The events became so popular over the years that sales staff would have to work after hours just to field calls. Customers trying to register had to listen to a busy signal, sometimes for hours on end. That meant extra overtime costs for the store, and a lot of unhappy faces.

Online registration makes things easier

In late 2010, Wild Rumpus Books began using Constant Contact to register people for the trolley rides and author events. That left the phone lines open and the staff available to help with the operations of the bookstore itself.

Taking event registration online hasn’t exactly dampened attendance — last year, the October trolley rides sold out in four minutes, without one busy signal!

“Using Constant Contact has saved Wild Rumpus time and money,” Felicity says. “Especially by automatically taking RSVPs to events. Now we don’t have to pay staff for overtime just so they can handle phone registrations.”

Fun and professional at the same time

Online newsletters have been a cost-effective alternative for Wild Rumpus Books, as well. That has made it easier to keep the store’s “whimsical tone” and still look professional.

More than 15,000 people have signed up to be on the mailing list since the store opened in 1992. Without email, that would have meant a lot of extra postage.

It’s about more than books

Three years of great growth despite a weak economy and the threat of e-books is particularly admirable. And Tom says that Wild Rumpus Books isn’t just about the books — it’s about giving time for parents to get together with their children and do something that everyone can enjoy.

“People’s values during these difficult economic times change,” he explains. “When there’s only so much money left at the end of the month, people say, ‘Let’s spend it on a book that we can sit and read together.'”

By combining an unforgettable experience with a good book, the store has ensured that trolley rides are still full, kids are still reading, and chinchillas, tarantulas, and African lizards all have a home to call their own.

How do you combine in-person events and experiences with a product? Let us know in the comments section below.