By Richie Goff | Business Profile
In the age of instant gratification, anything can be ordered and received in a few days, in some cases on the same day. Ebooks especially have changed the way consumers interact with and shop for books. Major book chains have gone out of business with the competition of retailers like Amazon, which started in 1994 as an online bookstore. Though Louisville’s locally owned used bookstores may have dwindled from about 20 to six over the years, the incomparable magic of browsing the shelves of secondhand books is very much alive at A Reader’s Corner.
In 1997, owners Tim and Judy Fout opened A Reader’s Corner in St. Matthews before moving to their current location on Frankfort Avenue. It was Tim’s love of books, especially history and theology, that led to the conclusion that books could be their livelihood. “He’s always loved used books,” Judy recalls. “Any time we’ve gone on vacation, used books have always been on our route.” They liked how economical used books were and how they were easily acquired, but after about a year in business, they discovered it was not enough to only have secondhand stock.
“Many people would come in and say they want the latest book, and we couldn’t say we could get it because we didn’t have a new book account.” Since then, they have stocked partially with new titles, some of which are already 30 percent off, and they are able to special order most books for 20 percent off the list price. But it’s really the 50,000 used books that bring book lovers from all over Louisville to this literary hub, and Judy enjoys getting to know the faces and book preferences of her customers.
“We love the conversations,” she says. “We’ve actually had a couple get engaged in the bookstore. It’s like a community meeting place.” Being around so many other local business on Frankfort Avenue inspires them to engage with the community as well. One way they give back is by doing a children’s storytime where they read themed stories, do crafts, enjoy juice and cookies and even provide books for the kids to take home. The monthly Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop also allows them to meet the locals, and though the event gets them lots of foot traffic, the challenges of a small business in the internet age still linger.
“It’s just very competitive and people are looking for convenience more and more,” she explains. “It used to be you didn’t get everything from Amazon but now you can get everything.” But that threat doesn’t dampen their hope that people will come back to the physical book. “So many people say they’ll walk into our store and find something they didn’t even know existed, or a book that they had read as a kid they had completely forgotten about.”
A good bookstore, much like a great book, is a portal to another dimension that you didn’t know existed. And the hope of finding something new, or something old in this case, keeps book lovers coming back to A Reader’s Corner time after time. VT
A Reader’s Corner
2044 Frankfort Ave.