That Bookstore in Blytheville Lives On After Sale to Grant Hill

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

“Everything really fell into place,” said Grant Hill, 22, who bought That Bookstore in Blytheville from Mary Gay Shipley, on right, last year for a nominal price of $35,000.  (Photo by Luke Jones)

When Grant Hill learned about That Bookstore in Blytheville being listed for sale in 2012, he thought it spelled the end of an institution he had always admired from afar. Little did he know that by early 2013 he would be the one deciding its future.

Former owner Mary Gay Shipley started the shop in 1976. She decided to sell it last year so she could spare time for her family. Even though the price — a nominal $35,000 — was less than some folks pay for a car, buyers were slow to appear. News of the sale even reached the ears of author John Grisham, who has had a long relationship with the shop (see more on Grisham here).

“I knew she was thinking of selling the store and was worried about its survival,” Grisham said in an email.

Hill, 22, grew up around his family’s jewelry store in Mountain Home. His early passion was for the publishing world.

“I thought my way into the book world was writing,” he said. “I wanted to do journalism for a while, maybe documentary work. My goal was always to write about music. It turns out it’s really hard, or maybe I just wasn’t good at it. I decided that there are a lot of writers out there doing good stuff, trying to distribute their art, their ideas, and maybe that’s where I fit into it, selling the books, publishing, something like that. The other side of the business.”

When college didn’t work out, Hill worked for Americorp for two years building houses.

“I felt like I was really being part of the solution for a couple of years,” he said. “But I didn’t think it was what was going to move me toward career goals.”

Hill moved back to Arkansas and started working for his father’s software company.

The job paid well, but there was a problem: He hated it.

“I started talking to friends and family about what I really wanted to do is work at a tiny bookstore, where my job responsibility is helping people find the stuff they like to read, as opposed to trying to convince people to give me money for software,” he said. “It’s easier to ask for money for something people enjoy.”

Then Hill found out That Bookstore was for sale. Out of curiosity, he sent Shipley an email. She, to his surprise, responded immediately.

The Sale



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