To people who have a longtime love affair with books, Book Stop Plus in Bartlett is worth a happy sigh. The five rooms are a warren of clean white shelves packed with an orderly array of new and used books.
The store is currently up for sale, and owner Andrea Russell of Bartlett is hoping to find a buyer with solid financing and a passion for serving the greater Bartlett community. She has solid relationships with her customers and an inventory of more than $160,000 in books to offer.
Within the store’s 2,000 square feet, the hardbacks and paperbacks cover a spectrum of fiction and non-fiction, including her best-selling category, young adult novels. Facing the front door is a small manga shelf, and romances are wall-to-wall in a room to the right. Suspense, horror and westerns line the long walls of one back room. Home-schooling families can find a book rack devoted to their needs. Parents make a beeline for the shelves devoted to school reading lists. The store also has inspirational fiction, sports and a big cookbook selection.
Popular and literary fiction dominate the main area, along with the shelves of new books.
It’s wall-to-wall reading opportunities interspersed with chairs, a sofa and lamps that invite the customer to plop down and browse through an inviting novel.
Near the counter, she sells home scents, collectible Whiffer Sniffers (scented plush toys that can clip to backpacks or hang in cars), a unique hairband designed by a local doctor to keep hair off the face without putting too much pressure on the head and other small merchandise to interest browsers.
Russell bought the shop four years ago, on Aug. 1, after she learned that the previous owner was sick and had been looking for a buyer. She had just retired from a law firm about six months earlier, but she didn’t want Bartlett to do without its own local bookstore.
She explained that the store was grandfathered in under a Bartlett ordinance against selling used merchandise, and she knew another one couldn’t take its place if it closed.
She also saw it as a challenge to turn it around. So she bought the business, spent a month repainting and organizing, and opened the doors to her first customers.
“It just really seemed like a shame, for something that has been in Bartlett so long to go under,” Russell said.
Under different management, Book Stop Plus has now been open for 30 years. Russell has run it successfully, adding new books to her inventory and developing relationships with customers she calls wonderful and gracious people.
One of her favorite store memories is a little Memphis girl who won a $50 gift certificate at the store’s annual Christmas drawing. The young customer proudly hugged her first purchase to her chest. Russell found out afterward that she was a St. Jude patient. “She was a really, really sweet little girl, and it just made her day.”
Today, she has placed her bookstore back on the market because of her own life goals.
“When I decided to sell it, I had come to the point where it was time to really retire,” Russell said. “My husband’s retiring in October, so we’ve already bought a house in another city, closer to our children. I have four children, and only one of them lives here now. So we’re looking to head east.”
She’s had several nibbles and some serious interest, but none have nailed down their financing yet.
“A lot of bankers don’t see a need for a brick-and-mortar anymore,” she said. “They see everything online. But Amazon has opened up their first brick-and-mortar store in New York. There’s a need.”
She currently has a new potential buyer who’s working to secure financing, but she isn’t counting her chickens just yet. He promised to give his decision by the end of July. Until the deal is firm, Russell said she will still entertain other offers.
“I’m hoping that if this gentleman doesn’t buy the store that someone else will still come along and pick up that torch,” she said. “Because it’s a community need.”
She’s an approved vendor with Shelby County Schools and all of the county’s municipal school districts, and she carries all the required-reading books for Bartlett City Schools. She has made sure that Book Stop Plus invests in its community: So far this year, she has donated about $7,000 worth of books to area schools.
At the end of the year, she rewards a teacher who’s been a devoted customer with a $100 gift certificate for her class. Russell also hosts one or two monthly book signings and concentrates on promoting local authors, stocks anthologies written by the mystery/suspense writers’ group Malice in Memphis, and stocks books for local schools at rock-bottom prices.
Russell also pointed out the benefit to Bartlett of having its own bookstore. “Everything that’s bought here in Bartlett, Bartlett gets the benefit of that local tax.”
She remains hopeful that someone will want to continue the Book Stop Plus legacy. “The store’s got a lot of potential still.”
ABOUT THE STORE: Book Stop Plus is at 2810 Bartlett Road, # 8. It’s open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. The store is closed on Sundays and Mondays. For more information, call the store at (901) 382-2222, email owner Andrea Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org, search for the store’s page on Facebook.com, or visit the store’s website at bookstopplus.com.
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to email@example.com.