800-sq. feet of books

Thrifty Reader proves book biz alive and thriving

July 13, 2012 

Tina Thornburg didn’t fall into just a good read.

She found an enjoyable occupation as a bookstore owner instead.

“It’s a fun store,” Thornburg said. “And I’m never without anything to read.”

The 54-year-old Archie resident owns Harrisonville’s only bookstore, The Thrifty Reader, 2105 Plaza Dr.

How large is the collection, exactly?

Thornburg has no idea.

“A couple thousand, maybe,” she said.

She does know one thing.

“It’s 800-square feet of books,” she said. “And sometimes I say we’re Harrisonville’s best kept secret.”

In an age of e-books and electronic tablets replacing the physical pieces of paper binded into book, Thornburg operates her small stop in Gaslight Shopping Center without a computer.

Her organizational method is done by genre, followed by alphabetical.

“I get told by a lot of people that my organization is better than a lot of other stores,” Thornburg said.

The shop, started by her parents, J.L. and Dana Wyatt, also of Archie, in 1982, celebrated 30 years in existence last month.

Thornburg took over management of the store seven years ago, and shows no signs of slowing down yet.

“People ask me what I think about the bookstores closing, and it’s sad,” she said. “I don’t think any bookstore should close. But on the other hand, I think I’ve benefited because I do get people who have come down from the city.”

Thornburg said she frequently gets asked how reading tablets, specifically Kindle devices, affect her business.

“I have always felt that there was a place for both. I think that most people who have Kindles, feel like that,” Thornburg said. “You have people on both ends - there are people who only read on their Kindles and there are people who only read books.

“A lot of my customers have Kindles - a few of my customers have gotten Kindles as gifts and brought me all their books and said they’re reading a copy of a book again. It takes about two months and they come in with their head kind of hanging and miss holding a book.”

Her advice: Kindles are good for road trips, but for a lot people, when it comes to getting in bed at night, or getting in the bathtub, going to the beach, the book does much better.

“It is an experience,” Thornburg said. “It’s a more than one-sensory experience.”

Thornburg had been living on the West Coast and not working due to a recent back surgery when the opportunity arose.

“They were getting older and ready to retire. It was either close the store or one of the four kids could take it over,” Thornburg said. “I was the only who volunteered to take it over.”

She always had a love for reading which has helped her excel as a bookstore owner.

“I’m an avid reader and always had been since I was a little kid,” Thornburg said. “And I got it from my parents. “

Her father built all the bookshelves in the store, and still keeps the financial records while her mom helps keep shop if she has to be away.

“There are are westerns, historical romances, mysteries, suspense, classics, young adult, military,” Thornburg said. “Pretty much every category that you can think of...there’s a little bit of everything.”

Thornburg sells the books in her collection at half the value of the publisher’s price. She then buys back books at the quarter of the value of the publisher. There is also a minimum purchase of one book with all trades.

It’s not very often that Thornburg will keep new books on her shelves, either.

“I do sometimes buy new books but usually it’s very limited. Sometimes I just buy them to get them in the store,” she said. “Like Hunger Games - I usually don’t ever get those back.”

Without a computer in the store, Thornburg’s sharp mind helps readers find books they’ve been looking for and also for making book recommendations.

“It’s kind of like knowing what’s in your kitchen cupboard,” she said. “Because I’m such an avid reader and I read pretty much every category, sometimes it just happens to be a book I’ve read and remember.”

She also uses her personal iPhone as a tool.

“If they can give me a main character’s name, or the title, then I can look that up and go from there,” Thornburg said. “I also read the backs of a lot of books. Sometime that’s enough to trigger a memory. By the time I’m done washing them and sorting them into piles as to where they go in the store and putting them on the shelf, I’ve looked at them several times and have an idea of what they’re about.”

The Thrifty Reader is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday; and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.

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