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WHY USED BOOKS?

BILL: “They’re more fun. If you have new books, my initial feeling is they’re like widgets. You sell something and then you order it again from the distributor. That’s boring. When it comes to used books, you’ve got centuries of works you can go out and find. Someone walks in through the front door with a crate of books to sell us, and it’s like Christmas. It’s also about the feel of the book, the fact a used book has character. It’s lived and has had an experience before coming to the store to be placed on our shelf.”

MARIANNE: “It was all used when I bought the store from a friend who was like a sister. And we continue that, because we specifically want parents to come in and introduce their kids to books that they’re not catching at school. We want parents to come in and we don’t want to make it a ‘wallet-breaker’ for them. We’re talking about our future here.”

MIKE: “There are two reasons. One is business-minded: there are certain ways you have to deal with new books, certain ways of ordering them where you have to meet a quota every month. And you never know if you’re going to meet that quota if you do that. The other reason is that it’s knowledge. It’s all knowledge. What I’m selling is knowledge. I love the fact that people are coming in here to learn, to be entertained. And it doesn’t have to be a new book for that to happen. If it was all new books, we’d have to set up special areas upfront to sell those books, and that would put aside other possibly better books just because they’re older or rarer. This way, things are more eclectic.”     

PAM: “I just love used books. I love them! I remember reading a lot when I was younger. In fact, I wasn’t a very good reader. My teachers would give me books to read, because I was a slow reader. Then, when I was around eight or nine, I got a hold of a particular book in a box of them in the attic, and I started reading it. Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter. It was the story that really got me.”  

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CULTIVATING AN ATMOSPHERE 


MIKE: “It can be a quiet place, a place to center yourself. But, we also love for the customers to be able to come in and be who they are. I like the idea that it can be a place where people can come to share all different kinds of ideas. But it does always have that aura of being a safe place or haven.”
 

MARIANNE: “I’m thrilled by libraries, but this isn’t a library. We want you to talk. We’re pretty kid-friendly. We don’t hire anybody who’s not a reader. We want employees here who want to be here, and if they’re just here for the paycheck or tick a box for their college application, we quickly weed them out. All the people who work for me get involved with the customers, and the customers get involved with us. My husband says my counter is my ‘barstool.’ [laughs] People come in and tell me things they probably wouldn’t tell anybody else. It’s a community thing. I’m their bookstore.”
 

PAM: “It’s just the way it is here.”
 

BILL: “What’s the David Lee Roth quote? ‘We’re not like this because we’re a rock-and-roll band. We’re a rock-and-roll band because we’re like this.’ And that’s it. This is not a business where one makes a great deal of money. You’re happy to make any money. So, it attracts people who are motivated by other things. It’s extremely comfortable and you meet a lot of nice people, a lot of bright people. If you go through the day without having a good conversation with someone, it’s a bad day. But that doesn’t happen often.”  

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CONVERSING WITH CUSTOMERS


MIKE: “Lots of conversations through the years. I’m amazed at all the things that people have knowledge about, that they’re passionate about. I love coming in, and they have stories. If you have a certain mindset, if you love to read, you love collecting other people’s stories. It’s fun to watch that light go off in people’s eyes and collect their stories. I’d like to think this has something to do with my personality, but it might just be more about that’s the kind of thing that happens in used bookstores. There’s a certain expectation there. There’s a certain amount of trust here. When you want magic, you go see the wizard.”  
 

BILL: “We have good conversations with people every day! It’s because of the type of person who’s going to come into a used bookstore. I had coffee once with the fellow I was renting the space from when I first opened the store, and I admitted, ‘You know, the only way you can really make any money at this is by selling porn.’ And he said, ‘Well, then, you should sell porn!’ To which I said, ‘But, I don’t want to sell porn; I want to sell books!’ [laughs] So, I did. That’s pretty funny.” 


PAM: “I do a lot of listening.”


MARIANNE: “Sometimes we do hear things that we really don’t want to hear. But, I have a lot of faith, spiritually. So, sometimes I feel like those things are told to me because they know me. Because they know I will understand where they’re coming from. There are times when I’ve given mothers books that talk to them about how to talk to their child about tough topics – abuse, alcoholism, or something else like that. The idea that I can step up and help them with some of the most terrible things you can think of – sometimes it’s downright desperation … the fact I can come up with those books (especially since I have a medical background) is a big help to the community.” 

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GHOSTS AND HAUNTINGS


PAM: “[laughs] Yeah … A few years ago, I would keep a box of books up high on the shelf in the backroom area. And every once in a while, I’d come back in the morning to open up, and the box would be on the floor! And one morning, I came in and the box was on the floor, and I said, ‘PLEASE! STOP PUTTING THAT ON THE FLOOR! LEAVE IT ALONE!’ And after that, it was never on the floor again. It is kind of strange. But, part of the business.”  


MARIANNE: “I hesitate to milk that like some of the stores do where people come in just because of that. But, our regular, John, used to buy Stephen King books and when he passed away, as per his instructions, his wife donated his books to our store. Now, I don’t really say much to my employees, because I never know if they’ll get nervous. But, at night, especially in the Mystery section where his Stephen King books would’ve been, you’ll be walking through the store closing up, and a book will fall down off the shelf. And it’s always right in that section. I tell the employees when that happens, ‘Don’t worry. It’s just John saying, ‘Hi.’” 


BILL: “We’ve had investigations here. People can book ahead of time for Saturday nights, for example. Probably four or five hundred of them. Some come from as far away as England. We’ve had full-body apparitions. We’ve had books fly off of shelves. Things get moved around. Shadow figures you may see out of the corner of your eye. A lot of footsteps. We’re all used to it by now.”


MIKE: “We’ve had quite a few occurrences throughout the years. The people who owned the store before us used to tell us about them, too. And those two owners were both very well respected, so I was thinking, ‘Do they really believe this?’ I was kind of the cynic. But over the years, there have been a few things where I thought that there was no other explanation for why strange things would sometimes happen. There was the time when an unruly kid was shouting in the corner with his mom, saying things a little kid shouldn’t say, and suddenly – and this is what the mom, kid, and a few customers who saw it said – a book just flew off the shelf and whapped the kid in the back of the head!”   

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE


BILL: “Used bookstores are rebounding. When Amazon first came around, it hurt initially. They’re schmucks. Then people started realizing that. You don’t always know what you’re getting when you order online. They make a lot of mistakes on what they send out, or sometimes the description doesn’t match the product, because they’re selling so many things. Or you have small amateur sellers who may not know a First Edition from a reprint. We don’t have that problem here. We know what we’re doing. And people come here, because they know that.”      
 

MIKE: “It does feel that people are tilting away from all the digital ordering and Amazon. They’re starting to rediscover their bookstores. I’m seeing people wandering in for the first time. It’s the same with the resurgence of vinyl records and record stores. It’s neat to see. I’m getting people who are coming in who have never been big readers and are asking for recommendations.”
 

PAM: “I had a fire a few years ago and lost about 35,000 books. That was pretty crushing. But, we keep going. The people who come in here have stayed pretty much the same over the years. I don’t really think a whole lot about the future.”

MARIANNE: “We do what we do very well. When we first got started, all the online stuff was only just getting going and Amazon was a speck on the radar. These days, competing with something like what they’ve become has taken all of our moxie. We have to tell our neighbors that live in this community to keep coming out, because it keeps the community strong to have stores like ours. We want you to shop where your money is going to stay here. It also keeps your neighborhood interesting. We have a sign up on the wall that says, ‘SHOP WHERE YOUR BEDROOM IS.’ We’re very big on ‘shop local.’ And it’s working. People come in and go, ‘Oh, yeah! This is what a bookstore is supposed to smell like!’ And then they go to dinner nearby, and it becomes a fun evening or weekend for them. That goes for kids, too. I hear people say all the time that kids don’t read anymore, they’re just into phones. But that’s not true. They do still love to read and they love their books. And we’re seeing that in action more and more every day. Those are our future leaders; so, I’m really thrilled about that.”   

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FINAL WORDS


MIKE: “People who come to used bookstores are an amazing lot. They’re like pack animals, like wolves. They all kind of exchange this vibe when they cross each other’s paths. And I love that feeling. You get hungry for that. You want more of that. If you have a used bookstore, it’s a passion. And don’t let that fire go away. Keep it going. This is the knowledge. This is where it comes from. This can’t go away. And for everyone else, make sure stores like this remain. Make sure the libraries keep going, too. Because, going to these places are future doctors, future presidents. Don’t you want them to have all the knowledge they can have?”
 

BILL: “Our philosophy is that the customer should always leave happy … whether they bought something or not.”
 

PAM: “I always say, ‘You never know what you’re going to find in here.’”
 

MARIANNE: “Love what you do. I love what I do. Books have always been a big part of my life. I’m always learning, and I love that I can pass that on to a whole new generation. And I don’t see used bookstores going out. They’re community gathering places.”

Around About Books
8 W. Main St., Troy  
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Browse Awhile Books

118 E. Main St., Tipp City
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New & Olde Pages Bookshoppe
856 Union Blvd., Englewood  
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The Bookstore
307 Pine St., Greenville  

(937) 548-7188

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