We make reading affordable!
Thanks to the Springfield Award Committee for naming us the BestUsed Bookstore winner for 2013!
Below is a copy of their letter:
I am pleased to announce that Thurston Book Exchange has been selected for the 2013 Best of Springfield Awards in the Used Bookstores category by the Springfield Award Program committee.
Our selection of your company is a reflection of the hard work of not only yourself, but of many people that have supported your business and contributed to the subsequent success of your organization. Congratulations on joining such an elite group of small businesses.
The Springfield Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the Springfield area. Each year, we identify companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.
Thurston Book Exchange was lauded for its connection with its customers
SPRINGFIELD -The way Peggy West whooped in The Mirage casino recently, surrounding gamblers probably thought she'd hit a big jackpot.
But West, who'd accompanied her husband to his Las Vegas business convention, doesn't gamble.
She was reacting to a cell phone call: Romantic Times book review magazine had just bestowed its 2007 Best Bookstore Award on her small business. Not merely best in Oregon, or even best in the United States, but - along with a shop in Australia - best in the world.
Not too shabby for a little shop in a Springfield strip mall that sells mostly used paperbacks. Nor is the inventory at Thurston Book Exchange exclusively made up of romances. But neither is that of Romantic Times these days, said Kate Ryan, bookstore liaison for the New York-based monthly. The magazine "reviews widely" all types of fiction, recognizing that romance readers also enjoy other genres, she said.
The Thurston store, at 5505 Main St., was chosen for its deep connection with customers, Ryan said. The contest was open to any bookstore in business for at least five years. Its aim is to spotlight those that manage to thrive in the Internet age, Ryan said.
West's shop has done so for 24 years, despite competition from nearby chain bookstores, big box discount retailers and other successful used bookstores. She launched the shop with a partner in 1984, becoming sole owner in 1998.
"Long, personal letters" from her loyal customers outweighed larger responses on behalf of 30 other stores the magazine considered, Ryan said.
"We received over 200 nominations for one bookstore in California, but they were a mass-produced form letter. Peggy's customers took the time to write their own, and every letter was as unique as they were. She was able to cater to that many individuals."
Each wrote about something different, Ryan added, "except that everybody talked about the scent of the store. I guess she bakes things."
Actually not, West 'fessed up last week. She simply burns - and sells - a line of food-scented candles such as "Creme Brulee" or "Grandma's Kitchen."
"Its rather hard to fight the smell of used books " she said. "And I've always gone for a cozy feel."
That hasn't been easy in the narrow, deep confines of a strip mall space. But she has twined silk flowers on trellises above the stacks of 80,000 titles. They create bright displays of new and seasonal books in the front window that provides the shop's only natural light.
Customer Billie Allison praised "a big, overstuffed chair near the selection of children's books that is perfect for resting in, waiting to check out, or even to sit and read to a child."
"My first-grade teacher told me at the tender age of 5 that as long as I had a book to read, I would have a best friend. But I also feel that a good bookseller can also be a best friend if they provide you with that book," Allison concluded in a nomination letter Ryan quoted at a Romantic Times' award ceremony in Texas this month.
cont. in next column
Allison and other letter writers also praised the meticulous shelving of books at the Thurston shop. No sifting through thousands of titles in a single, pink-collar ghetto labeled only "Romance" here. West respects the fact that such books account for 52 percent of all U.S. book sales. Her customers can bite directly into sub- genre sections as discrete as "Vampires," "Highland Historicals" and the hottest new category, "Romantic Suspense."
But romances aren't the half of it, as customer Jim Holman wrote in his letter of support.
"Two and a half years ago, my wife of 38 years died," he began. "While going through her books, I noticed that she was buying a lot of books at the Thurston Book Store. "Curious, I went into town to look the store over and see if there was anything I might enjoy reading. To my surprise, all my old friends were there, Louis L'Amour, W.E.B. Griffin, Vince Flynn, and even Mary Alice Monroe!"
The not-so-lowbrow can find literary fiction, some in a section labeled "Book Clubs." For those who prefer listening to their literature, the shop has an audio book rental inventory that rivals those at local public libraries.
"We have over 5,000 of them," West said. "They're popular with customers who commute up and down the river each day."
Paperbacks sell for 50 percent of the cover price, though about half of the store's regulars obtain new books by trading in old ones. "They supply the others, whose purchases keep me afloat," West said.
She also sells new hardcovers and paperbacks at 25 percent off. Thanks to a Roseburg-area distributor, custom orders usually arrive the next day!
West declined to give financial details of her business but said it can be a financial roller coaster - "I can make $80 one day and $400 the next," she said. But her human connection with hundreds of customers makes it worthwhile.
That feeling goes both ways, said Casey Kelley, 25, a local cook and Thurston Book regular.
"They're very knowledgeable and very attentive," he said. "They remember what type of books I like to read (fantasy) and what my wife reads (romantic suspense). They even know what authors we're reading."
Susie Martin echoed that sentiment in her letter of support to Ryan: "I can't escape the place without an armload of books and the feeling that I've just had a special treat in the midst of my busy life," she wrote.
A profile of West and Thurston Book Exchange will appear in Romantic Times' August issue.