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Book Buyers pens new chapter with community support

lee rathers.jpg
Sarah Delia
Lee Rathers is one of the first faces you'll likely see when you walk into Book Buyers.

Book Buyers, a family-run eclectic used bookstore known for its wide selection of genres and even past cat adoptions, had to find a new home like many former Plaza Midwood businesses have had to do.

Walk into Book Buyers — now located at Eastway Crossing — a shopping complex a couple of miles east of the store’s original location, and it feels remarkably the same.

There’s even the same smell of well-worn pages in the air. The same assortment of vegan goods is at the front of the store. And the same knick-knacks perched on shelves in between books.

And in this next chapter of the shop's story, four main characters live to fight another day. There’s Richard Rathers the owner, along with his daughter Lee Rathers and Virginia O’Riley who help run the shop. The shop’s cat Deena, also made the move. She’s now roaming in between the same shelves in this new location.

book buyers cat.jpg
Sarah Delia
Deena the cat is settling in nicely at the new location.

"Once we started getting the books and the bookcases in here, then it started feeling more like, 'this is what I know,'" Lee Rathers reflected. "This is familiar, and we can do this."

Late in 2021, Book Buyers got a call from a representative for Eastern Federal Corp., which owned their old building, saying they would be getting a letter about having to vacate the space. They had two months to move.

This new location at Eastway Crossing has become the land of misfit toys of former Plaza Midwood businesses — the Dog Salon, Tommy’s Pub, Open Door Studios, the Dairy Queen and Armada Skate Shop. There’s a special bond between these businesses who have had to relocate, held together by a sacred scrappiness that’s helped them survive.

"A camaraderie, it feels really good," she said. "They understand, you know, what we're going through as well, I'm sure. And we're definitely supportive of each other."

The other support Book Buyers felt is when they were in the process of moving. To try and lighten the load they had a 50% off sale and experienced sales they had never seen before, Rathers said. Then there were the volunteers who showed up every day to help load up the books. They didn’t hire movers, it was a community-led effort.

book buyers outside.jpg
Sarah Delia
Ample parking makes for happy customers at Book Buyers new location.

"That was how wonderful, you know, the community is and how they really support us," Rathers said. "And they want us to succeed and to stick around."

By the time they turned off the lights at the old location, they were exhausted. But the family business was moving, not closing. And that was something to celebrate.

"There were some moments I had before we started moving that got me upset that we would have to leave. But when we were moving and we had all the help, it just felt almost like an accomplishment," Rathers said. "Kind of a nervous excitement about the new location."

And there are a lot of benefits — better parking, the square footage is nearly the same as the old space and customers are finding their way back. It wasn’t necessarily how they wanted to move — being pushed out of a complex they had called home for over two decades (Book Buyers turns 23-years-old this August). But this new space is one that feels more secure — Rathers says they signed a lease for 10 years. So they plan to stay for a bit.

book buyers shelves.jpg
Sarah Delia
The same bookcases hold new used books.

"I don't want to have to move again," she said with a laugh.

The shop was fortunate to have a next chapter not an ending. And through perseverance their story had a plot twist — one of hope, resilience, and refuge on the east side of town.

Book Buyers Grand Re-Opening takes place June 6-12, click here for a full list of events taking place this week.

Sarah Delia covers criminal justice and the arts for WFAE. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.