Jennifer Marden loves books. As a teacher with twenty years of experience, used books have always had a special place in her heart. Last November, she acted on a long-time dream and opened Chapter 2 Books in the Geek Street area of downtown Kokomo. The store was thriving when the coronavirus crisis hit. Marden was initially frightened about how the resulting retail shutdown would affect her business, but she has been able to use her personal strengths to persevere through the uncertain time.
“Opening a used book store was something I always wanted to do and my husband was very supportive,” she says. “Still, when the store opened in November, I was scared to death. Then I watched in awe when people came in and wanted books. Things were going great and every month it was getting better. We were doing well for a brand-new business.”
Suddenly the coronavirus outbreak began, and Marden was scared.
“I had spent some years as a school counselor and I knew that when things aren’t going well, the best thing is to sit back and think logically,” she says. “I had never worked retail and I had to think about the skills I had. I knew kids did not have access to books since school and the library were closed. I had spent years picking out books for kids, so I built on that.”
To Marden, who came to Kokomo to begin her teaching career at Western School Corporation in 2000, access to books is critical for children. Over the years, she gathered books from estate sales, other used book stores, and donations from people who knew she was a teacher. She began contributing damaged books to the UP programs of Kokomo Urban Outreach, as well as churches and other organizations. That endeavor prompted the idea of offering curated book bags that could be delivered throughout the community.
“Recommending books is a big part of my classroom,” Marden says. “We began selling bags of books that were picked out for people based on their interests. People order them and they love being surprised. I take a lot of time and effort with each bag. It’s like picking out a gift. We are pleased with how it’s gone and we will continue it now that we are open.”
The book bags offer value for customers, since the books are more expensive if purchased individually. Depending on the size of the books, a $10 bag contains three to four selections and a $20 bag has seven to nine. Delivery is available within Kokomo.
Procedures at the store are now slightly different than before the pandemic. Marden limits the number of customers inside and face masks are recommended. Trade-ins are accepted for credit of up to 50% off of a subsequent customer purchase, and trade-in books are currently set aside for a quarantine period. In addition, books are sanitized before being shelved, and staff members continually clean the store.
“We have had a good response since we have reopened,” Marden says. “I just love being part of Geek Street. Having a used book store here is perfect. People from all over the country travel here to visit the comic book shop, toy store and record store. Although there is a place for technology and it’s here to stay, people love the tactile feel of books. There is something in all of us that longs for the simple comfort of being able to turn the pages of a book.”
Visit Chapter 2 Books at 107 East Sycamore Street in Kokomo. Call 765-450-8031 and visit facebook.com/ch2books for more info.