Used Bookstores

Used Bookstores

One reason (among several) that missives have been scarce lately concerns the business side of Two Dudes. Not to say that the blog is much of a business, but both Dudes are coincidentally involved in a book related, money making venture. My mostly silent partner is the President, CEO, and Unopposed Dictator of a used book store; I am the non-salaried part owner. We have something like 15,000 books sold mostly on Amazon and one employee, about whom more will be said later.

The store is stocked primarily by raiding thrift stores and garage sales across Southern Idaho. We seeded things with one massive purchase of art books from a local collector and a smaller purchase of aviation books, but since then most has come from strategic scrounging. Surprisingly, the area overflows with profitable books. Unfortunately for me, SFF is a fairly small part of the collection; we deal mostly in non-fiction. (For various reasons, very little fiction holds its value over time. SFF is better than some genres though.) We specialize in Mormon books (popular and scholarly) and Western history/social sciences. This is mostly a reflection of the stock available to us, but if anyone out there is in the market for, say, a first edition of some early Mormon leader’s writings, there is a very good chance that person would buy from us. We’ll acquire anything that sells though – popular books include Metals and How to Weld Them and Underwater Explosions. We’ve seen the former come in and out three times now.

The store has a few rare books in stock, but aside from a deal I brokered for $3000 from a Japanese bookseller, we don’t get too involved in the rare book world. It’s a whole different game.

In the beginning, my dad and brother ran the show together, with me as part owner and investor. They were based in my home town of Idaho Falls, ID. I flew in periodically from the Northwest for business meetings, but have my own unrelated career. In the good old days, everything was run from the basement of my parents’ house. I imagine that my mom was much relieved when my brother closed the deal on a lease for an actual “store,” thus removing a couple thousand books and maybe sixty boxes from the downstairs. The “store” is in an old government building, saved from disrepair by a random real estate investor and conveniently located next to the main post office.

And by “government building,” I mean “Cold War era, hardened fallout shelter with some offices.” It’s amazing. We recently added storage space, which gained us a room in a basement that looks straight out of Saw or some other ghastly horror movie. The store itself is not for public consumption, though an occasional customer pokes a head in. We are working towards a presentable store space elsewhere, mostly to boost incoming stock, but for now, the bomb shelter is perfect. In fact, my brother calls it the secret weapon at our disposal; the amount we pay for the lease is the true silver bullet that makes everything profitable. And if it is intimidating and dirty, well, we sell online. Nobody knows the difference.

A few years ago, my dad decided to move to the wilds of Utah. He initially ran a branch of the store there through the same Amazon account, but that quickly became too unwieldy. We spun off my dad’s store, leaving my brother and I in charge of the original. He handled things by himself in Utah. Fast forward to a couple months ago, and my dad found himself moving back to Idaho. As a result, my brother and I bought out my dad’s store, added him as an employee, and moved 4-6000 books from a forgotten corner of Utah back to Idaho Falls. This is great for the business, but means that I had to make two trips in a large U-Haul, with the attendant loading and unloading on each side. Spoiler alert: multiple thousands of books are collectively very heavy.

Anyway, two grueling trips later, I am back in the Northwest for the time being. Hopefully I can get back in the saddle so to speak, since the posts are backing up and the blog withering a bit from neglect. Stay tuned as we get things back on course.

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3 thoughts on “Used Bookstores

  1. I certainly resemble these remarks–or at least a character therein, one who has NOT seen much character development since last I posted. Let it be known from the outset that Pep drives a mean U-Haul, in addition to his talents as world-class tenor saxman and maker of Miso Soup of the Gods. Mrs. Pep mostly looks on in a mildly bemused state as the males–Pep, Jose and Brad–flail about (Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!!) and occasionally manage to do something constructive, whilst the two little Pepitos contrive to keep things on a bubbly simmer. God bless ’em all!
    Pep has contributed his share of notable titles to our joint endeavor, among which “Choshu in the Meiji Restoration” was a big hit among the cogniscenti. I could sell ten thousand copies a day to the literate hordes of Southeastern Idaho if I only had had the sense to sneak a quick photocopy when last I held that venerable tome in my greedy paws. It’s great light reading when one finds oneself in the john. As it is, I can only offer you “Intestinal Diseases Among Feedlot Pigs” as a consolation prize. Rumor has it, however, that additional books on that very masculine topic of “Explosions” may soon grace our shelves. You never work a day in your life when you love what you’re doing.

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