Local independent bookstore celebrates 25 years

Edmonds Beacon, Laura Daniali, September 4, 2014

On the opening day of ReRead Books in October of 1989, owner James Spangler made $42, and he was ecstatic.

Twenty-five years later, he’s still smiling – and so are his customers.

“One of the cool things has been my relationship with longtime customers,” Spangler said. “I’ve literally watched kids grow up coming to my store.

“I often have three generations of readers poking around. Once, I had five generations in one family.”

Cliff Thaler has been perusing the shelves of the store for over 20 years because he “gets a good deal.” As he shops, Thaler references a seven-page list of about 500 books from the shop that he’s already read, making sure he doesn’t buy the same one twice.

Spangler, 53, said people will call the shop after leaving and frantically ask, “Do you have my list?” And, he usually does.

Phil Assink said his “friend Jim and all his books” has kept him coming to the store for over 15 years. Assink jokingly said he’s not one of Spangler’s “best readers,” but he likes to come in and “bend his ear.”

Spangler said his customers keep coming back because independent bookstores offer more “depth of knowledge and personalized attention” when compared to big box bookstores.

He said he knows just about every book in his store, about 35,000 total, and he’s sold over 2.5 million.

“I was doomed to this fate,” he laughed.

Spangler is a third generation bookseller, and he said he has been doing this since he was a little kid.

His dad opened a bookstore in Boise, Idaho, in 1968, and sent Spangler out to gather inventory.

“When I was 7 years old, he gave me a bunch of nickels and said go through the neighborhood and offer a nickel for every book that’s in good condition,” Spangler said.

Spangler’s mother was a librarian, and he spent his childhood surrounded by books. He went to law school, but decided to pursue a different path, making his way to Edmonds, and setting up a shop near Edmonds Community College.

He came up with a creative business model that has kept his business going through the years.

“Twenty-five years is a long time for any small business to survive, but bookstores seem to be especially short-lived,” Spangler said. “Bookstore years are like dog years. We’re actually 175 years old.”

He offers his customers trade credit for books brought in to the store, offering 20 percent of the original retail value in trade credit.

Then, customers can use the credit toward up to half of their purchase.

“You get a lot more here in value than you would at some of the bigger places that pay cash, but you have to buy books here to really take advantage of it,” Spangler said.

“We had to dream up a way to get a little money with each transaction or we would never have made it.”

About 98 percent of his inventory comes from customers. He also has 10 spinner racks in independent grocery stores from Kingston to Concrete and other “far flung” places.

When he gets overstocked, he’ll drive 400-500 books to one of the stores. Other books that don’t sell are given to charities, recycled or may make it into the “free” box outside the store.

Spangler lives in downtown Edmonds, and is looking into relocating the store downtown sometime in the near future.

He said the effects of the Internet and eBooks have “taken a toll on the market,” but he is optimistic.

“We’re the last small independent used bookstore for miles in any direction,” Spangler said. “Our customers beat a path to our door because they really love reading and they love reading books – many of them have electronic readers but choose not to use them.”

He has discovered that genre fiction, such as mystery, spy novels, romance, science fiction, fantasy, western fiction, etc. sell really well, so he carries a lot of it.

“Every so often I hear, ‘Wow! I’ve been looking all over town for this one!’ Or the one I really love is ‘I’ve spent 10 years looking for this book!’” said Spangler. “That makes my day.”

He also recently “spruced up the place” with help from artist Tracy Felix.

Felix is the owner of ARTspot in downtown Edmonds, and she helped Spangler add some artwork and color to the store.

"Tracy has a much better eye for the aesthetics – for me it's all about the books," Spangler said.

He has added unique touches throughout the shop, using bookmarks found in books as “cheap wallpaper,” and expanding the children’s section.

Now that the sprucing up is complete, Spangler is focused on celebrating the store’s milestone anniversary.

“We’ll have to do something fun – cake and punch and a sidewalk sale maybe,” he said. “I still have a little time to think about it.”

Reread Books (pronounced re-reed, not re-red) is located at 6725 196th St. S.W. in Lynnwood. Store hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday. Located on the web at Rereadbooks.net. Book prices range from free to about $10.