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)

“I came down that weekend,” Hill said. “Three days later, we sat down and had a conversation that quickly turned toward what it would actually take for us to keep this place open.”

Before he knew it, Hill was on his way to owning the store. Shipley would be on hand to coach him. There was still the issue of funds, though.

“Not only did I have no credit, but I didn’t really have any money, and I had no way of getting a lot of money,” he said.

But to his bafflement, nearly everyone he spoke to was ready to help him. The town, Hill said, simply did not want to lose the shop.

He quickly found loan programs. The Greater Blytheville Chamber of Commerce, for example, has a program called Money for Main, which lends 20 percent of the total cost of purchasing or renovating any building in downtown Blytheville. The loan has no interest and payments aren’t due for three years, said Liz Smith, executive director of the chamber.

Hill’s savings helped with administrative costs, he said, and the vast majority of his loans came from Southern Bancorp.

“Everything really fell into place,” Hill said. “It made me feel that it was doable. Everybody’s attitude made it feel like it was doable.”

Not that the process was easy, of course. “There’s a crazy amount of paperwork for every single thing you do,” Hill said. “The process of buying the property was actually the easiest thing. But dealing with all the vendors, and all that kind of stuff, is kind of a nightmare.”

The Future

From his apartment in the shop’s attic, Hill is now plotting the store’s future.

“The book industry is changing quickly,” he said “It didn’t change for like 100 years; now it changes every couple of months.”

Realistically, Hill said, he’s not sure how brick-and-mortar bookstores — large or small — are going to survive. But he’s hoping that his niche market will give him better chances.

“Mary Gay kept this store alive with customer service and the fact that she knows what people want to read, and the fact that there’s that connection you don’t get with Todd at Barnes & Noble, or whoever,” Hill said. “Really, maybe the small stores have a better chance in small towns of making it. That’s kind of what I’m banking on: that people will like me, and want me to survive.”

Grisham said That Bookstore has a chance. “Independent bookstores will always be with us because they are real places, staffed by real people who love books, frequented by real authors who have something to say and kept afloat by real customers who crave the touch, look, feel and smell of real books,” he said. “There are, and will be, fewer of them, but the good ones will survive and prosper.”



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