Dr. John Hutton and Sandra Gross
Owners (CEO/CFO, IT, light-bulb tech, light janitorial...)
John and Sandy were loyal customers of a small children's bookstore called The Blue Marble and were dismayed with the announcement in 2000 that this local treasure would be closing its doors. Rather than see "The Wall" full of beloved children's author/illustrator signatures and drawings destroyed, they decided to make the ultimate Going Out of Business Sale purchase and bought the store. Within a week of negotiation with Miss Katie the Story Time Lady and the owner, a contract was signed in green crayon and the store was saved. For a journalistic account, click here.
Ten-plus years, gallons of paint, a marine mammal name change, and many rounds of remodeling later (including conversion of a boarded-up office into the decafé in 2005), blue manatee is a place that John and Sandy are proud to call their own: a true family business alongside their amazing staff.
Outside of the store, John is a pediatrician trained at Cincinnati Children's Hospital with a passion for literacy, unstructured/outdoor play, and the health effects of excessive electronic media. Sandy has Master's degrees in early childhood Montessori education and Fine Arts, and is a working artist at (and owner of) Brazee Street Studios up the road in Oakley. While they have many interests outside of children's books, many of their most profound life lessons and memories were inspired by them. Both love George and Martha, Sandy is partial to Frederick by Leo Lionni, and John, The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss.
Sheri has been a part of the bookstore family for 20 years! While her day to day jobs include ordering backlist titles and school orders, accounting and bookkeeping, and generally overseeing the bookstore operation, Sheri is best known to us all as just "Meme". She got the name from her grandchildren, but it stuck with the staff! Before she was our "Meme" Sheri worked teaching Montessori Kindergarten and Preschool, which makes her an expert at connecting children with great books. Her passions include but aren't limited to, hanging out with her five grandchildren; reading, especially Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird; traveling off the beaten path; jazz and opera; and politics.
Andrea has worked at blue manatee as a bookseller for four years. After finishing her degree in English at Xavier University she joined the staff full-time to carry on connecting children with the classics. While Andrea particularly loves talking about books with customers, she also is responsible for store operations. Her favorite book for kids is Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski; for bigger kids, Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; and for grownups, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. When she's not at the store, Andrea loves being with her friends and trying new things!
Events and Party Coordinator, Box Artist
Kelli began working at blue manatee 6 years ago as a part-time bookseller. In the years since, she’s expanded her niche from finding great books for great kids to thinking up new, fun things to do. Her other duties include making messes and drawing boxes. Before she was our resident creative cat, Kelli taught art for kids grades K-12. Her favorite books are Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, and CDB by William Steig, which was the first book she ever read on her own!
Sarah Jones is the newest addition to the blue manatee team. Since working at blue manatee, Sarah has enjoyed playing guitar and reading stories to our Manatots and contributing to the store’s artistic charm. With her background in art, Sarah has taken a liking to picture books with quirky and whimsical illustrations such as Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers and I Want My Hat Back, by John Klassen. When she’s not at blue manatee, you can find Sarah teaching art classes at Miami University, painting or browsing galleries around Cincinnati.
Story Time Lady/Full-time Bookseller
Gail, our dedicated story time lady, has been with blue manatee for four years. She's best known for singing silly songs and linking people with quality books. The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, and The Giver by Lois Lowry are a few of her best suggestions. Outside of the store, Gail is a proud mom of two and loves traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.
Six years on staff; 5th grade teacher at Woodlawn Elementary and fervent reader of children's books; favorite book: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Our rookie by calendar only, two years on staff; owner of My Little Red Haus; favorite book: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Our super barista, Brian, graduated from UC with a MA in Art History and a love of iced chai teas.
Coffeeshop veteran Sarah G. is sure to whip you up a delicious concoction.
Another veteran, currently working on a BA in English at UC; favorite drink: Big Orange Splot Smoothie.
Our baker extraordinaire, Sarah is sure to entice you with her delicious mini-muffins!
Trained to make espresso at the Highland Coffeehouse, studied Graphic Design at Antonelli College. Her philosophy: "Coffee is life!"
One of our newest Manatees, Amy loves to talk about her favorite books while whipping up your favorite treat. So stop by for a friendly book chat over coffee!