As startup ideas go, a brick-and-mortar bookstore selling only romance novels doesn’t sound particularly promising. Amazon.com Inc., after all, dominates retail book sales, romance fans tend to prefer reading on electronic devices, and the genre isn’t the kind of highbrow fare featured at most of America’s remaining independent booksellers. Yet two years ago, sisters Bea and Leah Koch opened The Ripped Bodice in a peppermint-pink storefront in Culver City, Calif., piling the shelves with titles such as Bliss, Sweet Revenge, and Camelot Burning. “We get a lot of customers who say, ‘I’m not a romance reader,’ then they wander around the store and say, ‘Oh, I’ve read that book! And that book!’” says Bea, 28, a graduate of Yale and New York University, where she wrote her master’s thesis on historical romance novels.
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