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Book Store in a Tiny Rural Town Enjoys Mega Success

  • June Soh

A bookstore in the tiny town of Mount Crawford, Virginia is nothing fancy - no comfy chairs or coffee like you find in some other stores. Yet this store has proven resilient over the years through a simple philosophy of giving people what they want: books, lots and lots of books.

Getting there in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley is simple. Drive along country roads and just follow the road signs pointing the way, toward the large warehouses tucked into a hillside.

Inside, shoppers with baskets in tow browse tables and shelves brimming with books. Many are loyal customers, like Zoe Dellinger.

“I’ve been coming here since I was in my early 20s," Dellinger said. "The thrill of finding a new book is very serendipitous here because you can't come and say I'm buying the new Nicholas Sparks book today. That’s not what this place is about. This place is about finding wonderful treasures.”

And those treasures are available at deeply discounted prices.

“I found a wonderful book that I wanted. It was very expensive at the time: 25, 26 dollars is expensive for me to purchase a new book. I found the book here for $5. I was so excited, so that has kept me coming back just to see what treasures I will find, "said Delinger.

In its 2,300 square-meter two-building facility, the Green Valley Book Fair has a half million new and old books in a wide variety of categories including politics, religion, science, travel, cooking, children’s books and just about anything you can think of.

But it wasn't always this big.

“My parents actually started this book store about 46 years ago," General manager Michele Branner said. "My dad collected old books and decided that he wanted to sell some of them. This is the old barn that the cow stalls were taken out of, and that my parents actually had shelves built on each row. People would come in and shop and buy books out of here. It went so well. It’s just kind of evolved to what it is today.”

The Green Valley Book Fair opens only six times a year for three-week sessions. About 25,000 people visit during each session, and the fair generates about $2 million in annual revenue.

“We buy our books at a fraction of retail and we can sell them for the prices that we do and keep our overhead low. That's why we don't have any fancy buildings or anything like that, said Branner.”

People have come to visit from all over the U.S. and from faraway places like Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia.

Tim Whitton came from Bristol, Connecticut.

"We have a whole family with us this time. We said you gotta see this book fair and so we brought them all here today. It meets every family's need that likes to read," said Whitton.

It's a simple business ethic: give the people what they want. And despite what you may hear about electronic devices being the 'end of print,' it looks like there are plenty of people who want nothing more than to settle in with a good book.

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