SHERIDAN — In high school, Vi Channel dreamed of opening a used bookstore.
Channel held onto that dream for 40 years. She raised four kids with her husband and worked several other jobs. Eventually, though, her dream became reality and is still going strong today.
Channel has owned Ye Olde Book Knook — a name she thought of back in high school — for 22 years, the last 15 at its location on South Main Street.
Channel saw a need for a used bookstore, which she wanted to open partly so fewer books were thrown away.
“I knew that there was a lot of people who still liked to read and a lot of the time they couldn’t find some of the old books they were looking for,” Channel said. “You can go anyplace in the whole world if you read a book.”
The circumstances differed for Robby Smith, owner of Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery. Smith has owned the business for 25 years and didn’t know what to expect when she began.
“It’s been kind of a trial by fire,” Smith said.
While Ye Olde Book Knook specializes in used books, Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery sells new items. Smith works with publishers, distributors and a few local authors directly to purchase brand new books, which are displayed every Tuesday.
Smith said the store inventory has changed a bit over the years and now includes more non-book items like maps, calendars and greeting cards.
The most enjoyable aspect for Smith is picking out good books for customers.
“All (the employees) love books, and it’s nice when somebody comes up to you and says, ‘That book that you recommended — I just loved it,’” Smith said. “That makes you feel good.”
The toughest part of the business is competing with e-readers and online retailers, specifically Amazon, though Smith understands the easy accessibility of internet shopping.
“That’s kind of worrisome, but I get how convenient it is for people,” Smith said. “I just hope people realize that if you don’t support stores in your town, sooner or later, they won’t be able to be in business.”
Summer is generally the busiest season for both stores. The most popular authors at the two locations include Lee Child, John Sanford, Craig Johnson, C.J. Box and Stuart Woods. Mysteries and thrillers also sell well at both stores.
Both businesses also see an increase in sales during the weeks before Christmas. Smith said her monthly sales used to be fairly steady, but now January through May sees a dip.
Smith and Channel said their customer bases skew a bit toward older generations, though they have people of all ages purchase books. If a shopper can’t find a specific item at one location, the owners also said they have no qualms about directing a customer to the other store.
Channel has been the sole employee at her store for the past four years. Before that, she had other employees and worked other jobs in the morning and early afternoon before going to work at the bookstore later in the day.
Channel began her store with around 2,000 books in 1996. The book inventory has significantly grown over the years and is almost too much for the current location. She also offers a small array of DVDs, VHSs and various music CDs.
She keeps index cards with every purchase she’s made since the business’s inception. There are thousands of members who sell something to the store and get store credit. Channel usually purchases a book at half the cost for what she will resell it for. So if she buys a book for $5, the seller gets $2.50 of store credit and Channel sells it later for $10.
She organizes the thousands of books into many different sections, which sometimes get overgrown. Some bookshelves present a challenge because they have bent or broken from the weight of so many books.
Channel said there haven’t been many surprises over the past two decades and she has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“I love it,” Channel said. “It’s always been what I wanted.”
Although she is 79 years old, Channel doesn’t plan to stop working anytime soon.
“I might one of these days want to sell it, but right now I’m not ready,” Channel said.
Smith shared similar sentiments, saying she will likely keep going for many more years.
Despite the changes over the years, local bookstore owners keep living their dreams.