Jenny Wells: Closing, not selling, bookstore business
Wednesday’s article about our community’s bookstore economy was an unfortunate representation of both my business, the bookstore business in general, and me personally. I wanted to clarify a few facts and unfortunate quotes while providing our community the story behind the story about Jenny’s Paper & Ink Books closing.
When I spoke with reporter Sam Corey, my hope had been that we could discuss a follow-up to his previous article about The Open Book closing, providing a bigger picture as another owner of a used bookstore. My plan was for it to also provide me exposure about the store closing, not that it was for sale, so the community would have the opportunity to learn I am offering my inventory at clearance prices and they could benefit.
If I was selling my business, I would not have offered a quote stating that, “There’s just no money in it.” As a business owner, it would make no sense for me to publicly represent it this way.
When Corey quoted me speaking of a bookstore’s business model and what bookstores in general need from the public, I was speaking about my business specifically, not other bookstores in our town. I cannot nor would I presume to speak for them.
Jenny’s Paper & Ink Books, previously Carol’s Recycled Paperbacks, a business of 24 years, consistently provided customers trade credit for the books that could be resold. That is the business model I specifically referred to as being difficult. Enough books have to be sold at the used retail price to make up for customers that are able to purchase books with trade credit.
As my faithful customers know, when they come into my store, they are greeted with a knowledgeable and helpful owner. All the books have been hand chosen, cleaned, and shelved in an organized manner. However, it has been difficult to charge for a service to enough customers that falls between thrift store pricing and bookstores that offer new books. For a product with a low price point, I have to move a lot of books to maintain a retail space, much less pay me. I do think there is a myth that books, especially used books, should be at thrift stores or yard sale prices. I always worked hard to provide a service to readers, not just a physical product customers had to find on their own. There is not another used bookstore in our town where a reader can walk in, ask for a specific book, and be pointed right to it if it is available. This is what I tried to communicate to Corey.
I want to provide a shout-out to my contemporary, Glen Sewell of Winston Smith Books in Auburn, with his permission. He was also quoted in the article and, unfortunately, felt some of his quotes were taken out of context as well. I can personally vouch for Glen’s commitment to readers and he is an excellent curator, keeping his inventory fresh with a good turnover. I recommend visiting his store and talking with him. He’s an outstanding source for readers in our area.
There are a few other points the article made that were messy at best and illogical at worst. For example, I’m not sure whose tax returns Corey thinks I’m speaking of … but I’d rather use final words as a personal note to our community, readers, and customers of Jenny’s Paper & Ink Books.
The opportunity to own a business that caters to those who love all things books and reading has been a joy. There are several reasons businesses close and my decision has been mainly about me needing to move forward to other opportunities.
Yes, the book business is difficult and money was always tight. I feel confident, however, that I provided you a unique book buying experience and gave it my best. I have enjoyed getting to know many of you. I am providing personal recommendations to those of you who come into the store about where you can find the books you love once I am no longer here. The top four I mention are Animal Save’s Book Nook, our Friends of the Library book sale, and Winston Smith Books and the Humane Society thrift store in Auburn.
I expect to be here through at least the end of September. Do stop by while there is plenty of inventory. I know you will find some gems. Almost every book is between $1 and $4. I will stay open from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday until I lock the door for the last time.
Jenny Wells is owner of Jenny’s Paper & Ink Books in Grass Valley.
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