In our town, there are a few places to get books. Wal-Mart and Safeway have a section of new books. The dollar stores sometimes have a few. The rummage shop has some used books. A classy gift shop has an estate collection it is selling at $2.00 a book as part of a charity that supports cancer patients who must go out of town for treatments. There is a bookcase of $2.00 books at the coffee shop, mostly romances. The library has two or three carts at the library entrance selling Friends of the Library books, and the Friends also have two sales a year. One can get books at garage sales and auctions.
We are 100 miles away from a big box book store of any kind. I don’t think there is a new or used book store within 50 miles in any direction. However, most of the population in that area are cows, who don’t read much. Also, we have not had a new book store in town for several years. In the 35 years I have lived here, we have had eight different stores selling new books. Most of these stores have been located on the main block, downtown, in a good corner location. Yet none of these shops has lasted more than three or four years, except one, which managed a seven year run. One of them was oriented towards Christian books, and even a connection with the Man Upstairs didn’t save it. The truth of the matter is, we have an excellent and well used public library and a depressed economy.
So we speculated that a used book store would do better than a new book store. We would offer a few new items and some gift baskets at the holiday, work on the on-line business when no customers were in the store, and hope that the sales in the store would pay the rent. We also wanted to sell books on commission thereby helping local people make an extra buck or two. Believe me, everybody around here needs it.
In August we drove 70 miles to the west to investigate a used book store we heard had just started. When we got there, on a nice sunny Tuesday, we discovered they were closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, so we could only peer in the windows and sadly note they had three times our space and better shelves. In many other respects they were eerily just like we had planned for our store. The daily hours were the same, the prices were the same and the concept similar. The man in the antique store next door sold higher end books along one wall, and he chatted with us about another bookstore starting up 10 miles to the west of him (80 miles from us).
There are also plans to have a used book store 40 miles to the north of us when their downtown renovation is done. If it gets finished, that’s five used book stores starting in our part of the state in a two year period. Fortunately for us, none of the others are in our town.
On the way home, we discussed how we wanted to be different from other book stores, if there would be more competition at auctions with all these stores starting, and what cooperative efforts could be made among the book stores along the Arkansas Valley corridor to jointly advertize. We also let the conversation stray to another subject we had been discussing. We had been investigating what other little extra items we could sell in the store to prop up the bottom line. T. wants stationery and pens. He is also looking into computer related accessories. Susan and I want to include vintage items or even a few antiques. We used to be junque dealers at the flea market up in Denver and still have a few bins of assorted glassware and things in the shed. Oh, and then there’s the glow-sticks. I want to sell glow-sticks. I like glow-sticks.
Does anyone have any suggestions on what to pick up or avoid in the non-book department? Ideas about what will appeal to a rural population short on entertainment venues? Titles of really wonderful books you would suggest we buy new to encourage folks to give as gifts?