Five people, connected by family and work ties, teamed up to keep the soul alive in Goshen.
Fables Books opened in 2019 in the downtown storefront that was home to Better World Books. Brad Weirich, his sister, Veronica Berkey, and Kristin Saner worked at Better World Books in the past. With the news of the bookstore closing, Weirich, Berkey and Saner, joined by Berkey’s husband, Gary, and Saner’s husband, Mark, made an offer and bought the building.
As Weirich, one of the majority owners, says, “A town without a bookstore is a town without a soul. Every town worth its salt has a bookstore.”
Berkey agrees. Bookstores, she says, are often the hub of the community, just like libraries and other community spaces. And there is a special place for a used bookstore, according to her.
That is what Fables strives to be – a community space with comfortable sitting areas, tables with puzzles and games for a parent to engage their children, and no time limits to get in the way of people who want to browse or simply hang out in an accepting and welcoming place.
Fables accepts donations of used books, which are carefully curated. A medium-size box of books earns the donor $5 off an in-store purchase.
Books that meet the standards are offered for sale. About 85% of the store’s inventory is used books, all of which have been vetted to meet condition standards and add to the sales appeal. Criteria such as author, genre and uncommon titles are used to weed out the books that come in. These are then cleaned and prepared for sale.
The Fables owners are also committed to keeping books from going to the landfill. They send their rejected books to a recycler.
The books that do make it to the sales floor are not the kind that would be found in a random thrift store, Weirich says.
Sometimes, a rare book makes its way into Weirich’s hands. He oversees the curation and acquisition of the gently loved novels and nonfiction books that come through the door. When he does encounter a rare find, it is put up for sale, often reluctantly.
Each of the five partners has a specific role in the store. Berkey handles the day-to-day store operation, and the purchasing of new books and sidelines of book-related products. Saner is in charge of marketing and events. Gary Berkey handles the finances and Mark Saner oversees the technology.
There are advantages to shopping at local bookstores. For one, the owners and staff know what they have in inventory. They are also eager to help their customers find a book.
“We can check to see if we have that title,” Saner says. “If we don’t, we can get it for them.”
From author book signings, access to community resources, and hosting book clubs and teen writer meetings to marking special events like national Independent Bookstore Day, the owners are not only curating an inventory of books, but also a loyal following. The staff knows their customers and the type of books they like to read. That is an experience that many larger, chain bookstores cannot provide.
The community can also participate in any of the four book clubs offered at the store. One of these is the silent book club, in which people read whatever they like at a set meeting time. There’s no discussion about the books or review of the books being read. It is simply a time for like-minded people to congregate and enjoy the pastime of reading, Saner says.
“We want people to feel comfortable,” Weirich says. “Aisles are wide and couches are plentiful. People can be here as long as they like.”
A friendly greeting is almost always the way customers are welcomed, Berkey says. “We say, ‘Hello, glad you are here,’” she says. “Readers come in all shapes and sizes. All are welcome here.”
The laid-back atmosphere really speaks to what Berkey says is the magic of a bookstore. It is the freedom to discover what is on the shelves. “Take your time to wander and look,” she says.
Fables Books is located at 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen. For more information, call 574-534-1984 or visit fablesbooks.com.
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