River Falls will again have its own bookstoreArea News
-- A River Falls couple with bookstore careers will open Fox Den Used Books, 120 S. Main St., this week. That downtown address once housed Mr. Movies, Gemini Jewelers and, in the early 1990s, The Shoe Den.
By: Phil Pfuehler , Pierce County Herald
A River Falls couple with bookstore careers will open Fox Den Used Books, 120 S. Main St., this week. That downtown address once housed Mr. Movies, Gemini Jewelers and, in the early 1990s, The Shoe Den.
Owners James and Heather Williams live in the town of Kinnickinnic. Their son, Evan, is a second grader at Greenwood Elementary School in Stephanie Linehan’s class.
For 17 years the Williams have owned and operated Sixth Chamber Used Books on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Earlier this year the Minneapolis Star Tribune named Sixth Chamber Minnesota’s best used bookstore.
The Star Tribune gave Sixth Chamber high marks in its review:
So many great used bookstores have closed in recent years, including a wealth of places around the University of Minnesota. Thank goodness we still have Sixth Chamber Used Books, a sunny, well-stocked, pleasant shop on St. Paul's Grand Avenue.
This isn't one of those dusty, rabbit-warreny places like, say, the old Dinkytown Antiquarian Bookstore. It's bright and cheerful, with nearly 70,000 books to choose from. (In person, or online.)
Tip: If you're a teacher, ask staffers how they can help you stock your classroom.
Heather Williams said the time seemed right to have a second store where the family lives.
“We love this community, have made a lot of friends here and there are so many young families around,” she said, adding that Main Street vacancies are gone and that the local business climate seems on the upswing.
“We’re near to the theater, the co-op, it’s a fun area, a fun block to be on,” Heather said.
Heather said that the look and feel of Fox Den, while slightly smaller than Sixth Chamber, will mirror that store’s tidy reputation.
“This is certainly not going to be anything like a musty old bookstore,” she said, referring to Fox Den.
Fox Den’s book inventory, while used, will reflect that cheery, clean look.
Customers can bring in books to sell or for store credit. The Williams say they’re picky about a book’s condition, but pay generously in cash and give double the amount for those taking store credit.
“What we’re looking for are clean, readable copies,” Heather said. “We don’t take books with water damage, broken spines or with writing in the body of the text.”
Fox Den won’t carry movies, but will have a sizable collection of toys, games, gifts and greeting-type cards.
Some toys, like tops and marbles, are old fashioned, and the Williams buy from companies that are “eco-friendly” and emphasize products with natural, sustainable and recycling materials.
For those selling books to Fox Den, a third option is to donate your credit to a River Falls elementary school of your choice. Those schools then earn gift cards once they reach $25 of donated credit.
The Williams say they’re motivated to help schools after seeing many teachers come to their St. Paul store and make classroom purchases of books and other items with their own money.
“They do this on their own and aren’t reimbursed,” James said. “This is our way of helping.”
With all the economic ups and downs and recent publishing upheavals related to electronic book reading, James said the St. Paul bookstore has held steady.
“It can be a bit of a struggle,” he admitted. “We have to be nimble. It’s a constant scratching to get by and working long, hard hours. But it’s an avocation for us as well as a vocation.”
The Williams believe that, long run, print books -- “an ancient technology” -- will retain a cherished place with readers.
James, who describes his passion for print books and reading as “evangelical,” says: “I can’t go to sleep at night unless I’ve read from a book. There is a meditative quality to it.”
While e-reading tablets are much improved, the Williams say all their sophisticated technologies tend to distract from the actual reading experience. By contrast the words found in print books, they believe, establish a more focused, tangible connection with readers.
James adds that print books are privately owned, while today’s technology allows companies to track and market your electronic reading purchases.
James and Heather say Fox Den will offer a vast inventory of over 120,000 book titles. About a third will be at the River Falls store -- the rest will be at Sixth Chamber in St. Paul or the Williams’ heated warehouse at their Kinnickinnic home.
All those titles will be catalogued on their local business website at www.foxdenbooks.com.
“I’m not anti-technology,” James said. “We catalog every single book for the website. People can browse the list, even on their cell phones, and put a ‘hold’ on any book. We can have it available for them to look over by 10 a.m. the next day.”
The Williams say ‘the hold’ gives customers a chance to visit the store to look over the book of their choice to decide if that’s what they want.
Other Fox Den highlights:
--Educators can stop in and get a 10% daily discount for classroom material purchases. (Fox Den doesn’t have textbooks.)
--Nonprofit, tax-exempt institutions that have a tax I.D. number, usually libraries and schools, get a 20% institutional discount.
--Three part-time employees are being hired.
--Store hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
--Sunday hours, for now, will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. but may fluctuate depending on the time of year.
--The store’s phone number is 715-425-6180.
--Heather will oversee Fox Den; James will continue to oversee Sixth Chamber.
--Fox Den will hold “storytime” reading Wednesdays for preschoolers. Art and fun science workshops for older kids will be offered on weekends.
James said starting and maintaining a used bookstore is way easier than a store selling new books.
“There’s a higher profit margin for used, and you have people, your customers, supplying your inventory without shipping costs,” he said. “Those people who sell to your store become part of your customer base, and with used books, you have a greater variety and mix of titles.”
James says that visiting a used bookstore, any bookstore, is another advantage print books have over e-books.
“There’s a sense of discovery when you walk in and look over book titles,” he said. “Ordering online is terrific but it’s less expansive -- you lose that exercise in serendipity where you come upon a book unexpectedly that you end up liking and wanting.
“There are also people-to-people contacts in a bookstore with other customers, hearing what they have to say about books and their recommendations.”
The Williams say their St. Paul site has become a true “community store” with a legion of loyal and repeat customers.
Said Heather: “We’re hopeful we can do the same here in River Falls.”