Bookstore owners hope to sell, open new chapter in their lives

May 02, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, PA. - In 1990, Albert and Jane Morningstar, with help from their two children, hammered together about 60 wooden shelves to hold what today are more than 40,000 books in By The Books, their used book store at 38 E. Main St.

A sign in the front door says the business is for sale.

"We want to retire," Jane Morningstar said. "We'll have been here 14 years in September."

The couple wants to travel "anywhere we haven't been before," she said. Maps and posters on the walls throughout the store are evidence of where the Morningstars already have been over the years.

In 1997, they spent a year in Hawaii while their son watched the store.

The selling price for the business is "under $100,000," Morningstar said. The couple rents the building. They live in Waynesboro. "Albert is three-quarters retired from the bookstore," she said


In 1990, Morningstar said, her husband wanted to try a new career and decided to open a used bookstore, something he always wanted to do even though he had no experience in the business.

"He's been a minister, public school teacher and a lawyer," she said of her husband.

The couple met with Jack Staley, owner of Barnwood Books in Hagerstown, for advice. "He was our consultant," Morningstar said.

The building the Morningstars chose lent itself to a used bookstore business. It was occupied by a podiatrist before they moved in.

"He had it sectioned off into rooms," she said. They lined the rooms with the shelves they made and began to fill them with books.

At first, the couple found their inventory at auctions, but that became too time-consuming, Morningstar said. In the early 1990s, they bought out the stock from a used bookstore owned by Jeanette Naylor on West Main Street, she said.

Later, they simply bought books from people who brought them into the store.

"Basically, they walk in the door," she said. "We always find space for good books."

Morningstar was busy Thursday afternoon unpacking seven cardboard boxes filled with books that a woman had dropped off.

A walk through the maze of five rooms, snaking along a long hall from the front of the store to the back, shows that there is real order from what first appears to be chaos.

In the front of the store are the new specialty books, a children's section and behind the counter are the rare and collectible books.

Walking down the hallway gives buyers a look at serial romance and men's action books.

Enter room one and you will find biographies, paperback classics, drama, poetry and "whatever else that I don't know where to put," Morningstar said.

Room two has the cookbooks, natural history - which Morningstar calls "the critters" - needlecraft and gardening, science fiction, horror, mysteries and how-to books.

Travel, religion, philosophy, psychology, women's issues, true crime, music and world history sit on shelves in room three.

Art books, more history, the Civil War, books on all the other wars and the works of such Western writers as Zane Grey, Max Brand and Louis L'Amour are found in room four.

Room five has books on autos, sports and hobbies, hunting and fishing, photography, anthropology, language, business and economics.

Behind it is "the wayback room," where more discrete buyers can find what Morningstar calls her "New Age" selections.

Carolyn Scholl of Waynesboro was cruising the hallway and rooms Thursday afternoon. She brought an armful of books to the counter and paid Morningstar more than $32 for her selections.

"I shouldn't come in here. It's too dangerous. I spend too much money," said Scholl, who said she's an avid reader. "I don't get the time I'd like to read. I could read all day."

"That's a typical comment from most people who come in here," Morningstar said.

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