Brick and Mortar Thoughts

Open A Used Bookstore – Lessons Learned

Comments (22)
  1. This is a great article and the underlying lessons apply to ANY business purchase. The inventory lesson is something everyone should pay attention to if the business involves a physical product. Do a full inventory and make sure there is a way to be compensated if the beer distributorship you just bought “sold out” of every case of beer the night before you took over.

    I am surprised your lawyer did not insist on a complete inventory and also put in a clause to protect you from buying inventory that could be sold before you actually took possession.

    Another thing that some people overlook is having a real estate agent look at the property. You can get one to do a walk through appraisal with comps for a flat fee if the seller did not hire one to sell the property. You’d be surprised at how helpful this can be. Sellers won’t try to snow a Realtor but they will act like some things are “little” to potential buyers when they know the problem is costly to fix.

  2. Those are some really good tips. I am probably the same way, and I put too much trust in people when signing contracts and such. Probably something that I need to be more careful when doing. It would probably make me feel sick too to not have that 1400 dollar book. Good luck with the store though!

  3. Nice article, i agree, that is a pretty good business model for taking over anything. I like the fact that if those were the 2 biggest mistakes you made then you’re probably doing pretty well. good luck in the future.

  4. George says:

    The good news is – you are in a great business and have somehow survived for three years!

    There are always book stores for sale but a couple of points I would make is – each of us owners have our own pluses and minuses and both of them can easily work against the interests of a new buyer.

    Our negatives have driven away a lot of customers – and they are unlikely to ever come back. Our positives have captured and enthralled our regular customer base – and many of them are not going to be easy to win over if you try to change the store or its procedures very much.

    I would recommend starting from scratch after getting all the advice you can get from existing stores or paying careful attention while serving an apprenticeship with a successful operator.

    Even then, it is an extremely difficult business to operate – not just because of how much there is to learn but because the work to be done is neverending – and it has to be done!

  5. Josh says:

    I have to say, I have made a lot bigger mistakes than those, like Matt said, if those were your two biggest, you are doing well.

  6. I don’t own a book store, but there’s so many great points in this article that can be used for so many situations. I think the phrase “You Don’t Know What You Know” really stands out to me, because I think anyone in any business can think back to “if only I had known that 6 months ago” or “if i could start all over again, i would do xxx differently…”

    I think the advice “never make assumptions” is a pretty good one to follow too!

  7. You learned some valuable lessons very cheaply. One thing I would have recommended would have been a non-competition clause. You’d be surprised how many business owners “sell” a business then turn around and open a competing show just down the road. Having a real estate professional involved would have been a good idea also, just to make sure you were covered on the property end. All in all, it looks like it turn out well but now you’ll know when you buy your next business!

  8. Willam says:

    You have to be extra careful when dealing with people you don’t know. Bette be careful than sorry.

  9. Lisa says:

    I understand how the 150 year old $1400 Angler book still stays with you. Yes, having it. Would be awesome. Selling it if you still chose to would be great. These things stay with us not because of the money, or ownership as much as knowing what those people did. Sometimes, it isn’t about dwelling as much as it is about the justice end of it. You know this since you mentioned the Karma thing.
    Hopefully, these people are living with the fact; that they did something underhanded in a big and intentional way.
    Even though you learned a lesson here, it still sounds like you have a lot of faith in people. I think that is a good thing. Because you most likely don’t conduct yourself in a way, that you have to be constantly paranoid about what others are up to. You can just live your life happy. Those people have to be in a habitual state of awareness because of their own actions. They are the ones who really were cheated. You are the the winner by your good and honest nature. Except now you are just a bit more savvy.

    Best of Wishes

  10. carmen bucci says:

    Thanks so much for this article I’m in the business and still trying to figure out the ins and outs.

  11. wow what a blessing to own a book store. There is nothing like browsing and I hope your venture goes well for you. WE work awith a lot of authors and encourage them to increase all their distribution outlets including both online ( their website) and local book stores.

    Best Wishes


  12. Harsha says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m in process of opening a used book store here in India. I’d really appreciate if you can add your latest experiences to this post.


  13. Sue brock says:

    Great article no came across it because my Mom had an online bookstore where she sold used books on Amazon. She is currently in the hospital and sadly I think her book selling days are over. Can anyone give me advice on how to sell her books? She had about 2,500-3,000 books and I have no idea what she should be getting for them or if there is even a way for someone to view the inventory of one particular vendor on Amazon? Any advice greatly appreciated.

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