Cheryl Lovering just wanted to spend more time at home with her kids.
With her sister – a fellow PE Teacher – agreeing to follow suit, the sci-fi loving reader took a plunge when she opened “The Book Exchange” on North Main Street in Manteca more than 20 years ago to achieve just that goal.
While her partner might no longer be a part of the equation, Lovering’s business is still going strong – moving across the street into a new space because they soon outgrew the old one and taking over a neighboring hair salon when it went out of business to nearly double the size of the store.
Some of her customers have been with her for the duration, and while digital readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes and Noble Nook have taken a slice of her business, those who frequent the store help offset the cut.
“We have some customers that come in and end up reading six or seven books a week,” she said. “We’re really more of a reader’s store. People can bring back what they’ve read and put it towards their next purchase and it makes it much more affordable. We carry a little bit of everything.”
With the recent explosion of vampire stories and zombie tales, young adult books focusing on the paranormal have become one of the store’s biggest sellers – even though romance novels still take the top slot among customers coming in to pick out used books.
A table just inside of the front door has all manner of brand new books – from classics by authors like Jack Kerouac to recent award-winning scribes like British author David Mitchell.
And for those who want to take something home and read it in its entirety without making a complete purchase – like one of the new bestselling hardbacks – a rental service is available where customers can shell out $4 and get their copy for two weeks.
It’s a unique business model for Lovering, who donates roughly 2,000 books – if not more – to the animal rescue of Placer County each and every week. Every family, she says, is allowed to bring in one shopping back full of books every week for trade-ins – using a portion of the trade-in value on each purchase of a new book. Custom orders are made every Thursday with a one-day turnaround.
She’s been a fan of science fiction books ever since she first heard the story “Mrs. Pickrell Goes to Mars” and her love for reading has only grown throughout the years.
“I look around in here and I definitely have a big selection,” she said with a laugh. “What makes her happy though is seeing the same old customers coming back. I’ve got some that have been coming since we were across the street, and that makes you feel good.”
The work, however, is never quite done.
At the start of each and every day hundreds of books are ready to be sorted, categorized and reshelved. Lovering takes everything – regardless of whether she has 100 copies of a single book or absolutely none.
And with the Christmas holiday coming up, custom ordering some of the more popular titles for gifts is a top priority to ensure that they’re not left like they were last year – unable to fill the orders of customers that wanted to put certain types of books under the tree.
Their regular customers will start picking up their reading again, Lovering said, after the first of the year.
“In December we sell gift certificates and whole series of books, but those regulars that read six or seven in a week don’t have the time during the holidays,” she said. “But they still make for some affordable gifts.”
The Book Exchange is located at 332 N. Main Street, and is open Monday through Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4:30 p.m. For more information call (209) 823-2938.
— JASON CAMPBELL
209 staff reporter