Jon Goode didn’t expect to become a small business owner. The aspiring artist and musician, a Cicero native, returned to Central New York two years ago after a lengthy period spent traveling to other regions of the country. He set up his studio at the Gear Factory on South Geddes Street and took a part-time job at Books & Melodies, the large used bookstore in Eastwood he had been frequenting.
Goode enjoyed a good working relationship with the shop owner, Scott Makarchuk. But last summer, Makarchuk abruptly announced that he was leaving town. “He asked me if I was interested in buying the store,” Goode recalls. “Otherwise, he’d have to sell everything and close it. That would have broken my heart.”
He’s not alone. Books and Melodies (known as Books and Memories during Makarchuk’s tenure) is a mainstay of Eastwood. And it’s considered a treasure trove for local book lovers. Goode, who seems at once tentative and hopeful in his new role, understands that special something that keeps the core customers loyal. “Sales here stay pretty steady,” Goode says. “People still want books.”
Less is more: Margie and David Favalo sell more than books inside the airy, welcoming Books 4 Less in Glenn Crossing Plaza on Route 57 near Bayberry. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Goode also sees an opportunity to add a new emphasis to the business. Gone is the café that Makarchuk worked hard to incorporate into the store. The front entrance is now more open with room for featured items and a much-expanded vinyl collection (as in records, youngsters) that Makarchuck brought up from the store’s basement. A few tables and chairs remain so browsers can sit and read, or chat with a friend.
The record collection is so large, Goode jokes about expanding: “I need a whole other storefront just for the records.” Looking out of his storefront on James Street, there are plenty to choose from. “That’s a thought.” Goode adds.
Goode knows that keeping the store viable in the current economy will not be easy. Also, electronic media and e-readers have changed the way people buy books. But Goode is confident that a bookstore like Books and Melodies can still make money. He’s trying to be a little more discriminating about what the store takes in, and he’s currently the only person on his payroll.
“I think there are always going to be people who prefer books,” Goode says. “People who have the Kindles and the Nooks—that’s a different market than the customers who come in here.”
That’s exactly what other local used book merchants are hoping for. Colleen Pozzi, owner of the Book Cellar in Solvay for nearly 13 years, says interest in mystery, romance and history bring customers through her door. “Romance is about 58 percent of the market,” Pozzi says. “People find an author they like and they end up wanting to read everything they have published.”
Like most of the local used books haunts, the Book Cellar has a devoted following. And Pozzi says there are always people coming in who simply love the hunt: They either enjoy exploring the shelves in hopes of finding unknown treasures, or they are looking for something that isn’t available in a store that sells new books. “If you have somebody that really loves reading, they will go to the ends of the earth to find a book,” she says with a laugh.
The Book Cellar only takes in paperbacks, and they are resold at half off the cover price. Pozzi says customers looking for out-of-print titles often consider her store their last hope. But those hoping for, say, a first edition of a classic will likely leave empty-handed.
Classics are more likely found at the Stop & Swap Bookstore, located in Westvale Plaza at 2134 W. Genesee St., a tidy little shop that sells used paperbacks and a few old magazines. Diana Sands opened the store 37 years ago, and her daughter Wendy helped run the family business until this past summer. New owner Bill McConnell says he plans to change little about the store. As with the Book Cellar, romance novels account for a large portion of the transactions.
“Oh, romance is our bread and butter,” McConnell says. As such, a huge case of the colorfully covered, swoon-inducing titles dominates a sizable part of the store. Unlike the Book Cellar, Stop & Swap also carries a good selection of children’s books.
Part of the appeal of an independent bookstore is the atmosphere. For most of its 30-plus year history, Books and Melodies has maintained its reputation as an intimate, disheveled-yet-hip store that people could wander into and lose themselves for an hour or two. “It took a certain type of person to enjoy it,” Goode says. Customers were used to rummaging through stacks of books on the floor. But it was impossible for staff to find specific titles. “I probably would have loved it, but that’s not practical,” Goode says. “It’s much better organized now, yet there is still that sense of curiosity. You can still find something unexpected.”
Pozzi’s Book Cellar used to be housed in the basement of their current location, hence the name. “It was nice and cozy,” she says. “But now we are upstairs and it’s allowed us to be more organized and have seating.”
Pozzi, who lives in nearby Lakeland, likes the fact that her store fills a niche in the village. The building, located at 1701 Milton Ave., was built by her husband’s family more than 100 years ago. “We don’t get a lot of foot traffic, but our customers are very loyal. We have a big core group, and they are more like friends.”
When David Favalo opened Books 4 Less in Liverpool’s Glen Crossing Plaza six years ago, he went with quite a different approach. Having owned bookstores in the Rochester area for nearly 20 years, Favalo took a few tips from the competition. “We wanted to give the store an open, finished look, more like a Barnes & Noble,” he explains. The spacious layout makes it easy to find specific titles, and there is room to sit and look at a book if one chooses to do so.
“Most stores have a typical library setup,” Favalo says. “Here, it’s an ‘X’ formation. People are so busy—they don’t always want to go through stacks of books to find something. Here, they can run in and grab something, and go.”
Favalo says the design of the store suits its suburban location. Sure, Books 4 Less has its devoted base of customers who love rummaging through the used titles, but Favalo is also trying to appeal to the more casual shopper. Situated in a busy strip mall off Route 57, foot traffic is fairly steady.
Used books—particularly romance, mystery, suspense and military history—are “the most important part” of Favalo’s business. He’s rather particular about what he accepts for resale, but still finds the occasional stash at yard and library sales. He happily reports that the classics are still in high demand, too. But Books 4 Less also carries a limited selection of new titles, as well as greeting cards and jigsaw puzzles.
“We also do special orders for new books and can get up to a 20 percent discount on the list price,” Favalo says.
While Books End, also located on James Street in Eastwood, just marked 24 years, recent trends in the market have altered its business model. Special orders and online sales now account for a large portion of that store’s sales. “Although we consider our local customers our most important customers, we do sell a significant number of books online,” says owner Jim Roberts. He adds that this facet of the business has actually brought more customers into the store.
“Perhaps the most positive result from selling online is that it has broadened the scope of what we buy,” Roberts explains. “We may have been wary of a book with a more esoteric or academic subject before, but seeing customers buy them online challenged us to add depth for our customers locally. This brought us new local customers who were pleased with the widening scope of our stock, which encouraged us to widen it more, which brought new customers, etc. etc. etc.”
Goode says he will hold out from following his neighbors into the electronic age for as long as he can. “If we sold all our best stuff online, nobody would want to come in,” he says. “It wouldn’t be as fun.”Other booksellers seem more cautious in speculating how their businesses will fare in the future. “We still find that there are plenty of customers who may have an e-reader—they like it, but still want to purchase books; they want to have a book in their hand,” Favalo says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. The market may change completely in a few years.”
Romance isn’t dead: Co-owners Colleen Pozzi and Susan Wood specialize in buying and selling used romance novels at The Book Cellar in Solvay. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Read All About It
There are plenty of local shops that carry a diverse selection of used books. Here’s a quick—if by no means definitive—guide. It’s more fun to peruse their wares in person but some also offer online sale, should one be so inclined. Happy hunting!
Another Time Books. Shoppingtown Mall, 3649 Erie Blvd. E., DeWitt; 446-2665. This new addition to the near-empty mall is a bright, spacious store, near the food court, with about half of the stock being used books, the rest being new titles. Shoppers can also find games and used CDs and DVDs. Mondays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Books & Melodies. 2600 James St.; 434-9268; booksmemories.com. New owner Jon Goode is trying to keep this Eastwood gem, formerly known as Books & Memories, open for decades to come. It’s now cleaner, and leaner, but it’s still a great place to find that obscure title, a classic, or some vinyl. Plan to spend an hour or two. Tuesdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Book Cellar. 1701 Milton Ave.; 487-6856. Beloved for its no-frills atmosphere, the Book Cellar occupies the historical Pozzi’s Hotel building. They have paperbacks galore, with a good selection of urban fantasy, true crime, mysteries and …romance novels. The store also stocks Leanin Tree greeting cards at 20 percent off. Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Books End. 2443 James St.; 437-2312; firstname.lastname@example.org. Well-stocked and featuring rare and out-of-print selections, Books End is another go-to place for tome raiders. With owner Jim Roberts’ embrace of online book sales, the store has expanded its already-loyal following. Roberts has been behind the counter for 24 years. Mondays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Books 4 Less. 7421 Oswego Road, Liverpool; 457-0030; books4lessliverpool.com. Books 4 Less has a good mix of new and used books as well as puzzles and cards. The bright, open store is inviting and everything is easy to find. This is a great place for the busy, casual shopper who wants to give the gift of literature, and it carries a great selection of used children’s books. Mondays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Stop & Swap Bookstore. 2134 W. Genesee St. (Westvale Plaza); 488-2255; email@example.com. Compact with a great neighborhood feel, romance novel fans can have a field day with the huge selection. The children’s section is well organized and stocked with some great finds. Mondays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Time & Again Books and Tea. 18 E. Utica St., Oswego; 342-7552. Appealing to the more mature readers, this quaint shop sells well-preserved used titles (many out of print) as well as new books. Enjoy your new selections over a cup of hot tea or coffee. Mondays to Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. (limited hours on Wednesday, so call ahead); Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m.