Used book store opens with 23 sales Holiday browsers become buyers

June 03, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

When Al Morningstar opened his used book store, By The Books, for business on Memorial Day, he expected browsers -- not buyers -- to rummage through the nearly 20,000 titles stacked on shelves in the downtown Westminster shop.

After all, browsing is what a used book store is all about, and opening for business on a holiday probably wouldn't mean many sales, said Mr. Morningstar, who envisions stocking the 1,500-square-foot store with 40,000 books eventually.

"I thought opening Memorial Day would be a good opportunity for people to see the store. It was very successful," said a gleeful Mr. Morningstar. "I had 23 sales. I was very pleased. About 50 people came through."

Mr. Morningstar, who also owns a used book store with the same name in Waynesboro, Pa., chose to expand to Westminster because, he said, the area lacked "a complete used book store."

"There's a used paperback book store in town and a couple of new book stores, but those aren't the same thing. We're not selling to the same people," Mr. Morningstar said. "It seemed to be the right market."

Tim Bryson, owner of Locust Books on East Main Street, said there is room for both new and used book stores in Westminster.

"I wish him all the luck," said Mr. Bryson, who opened his store 13 years ago. "I'd really like to see him succeed."

Mr. Morningstar said that having more than one good bookstore in the area will lure book lovers from Baltimore, Washington, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

"If we get established and have 40,000 books here, I think that will happen," he said.

"Book lovers will travel if they know there's a good bookstore where they might be able to find a little gem."

As does his Waynesboro store, the Westminster shop features paperback and hardcover books on a variety of topics, arranged by subject.

The subjects include world history, U.S. history, business, law, literature, hobbies, music and language.

Paperbacks sell for as little as 75 cents. The most expensive book currently in the store is a first edition of Washington Irving's "Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey," which was printed in 1835. It costs $500.

Mr. Morningstar buys and trades books. In Waynesboro, between 500 and 1,000 books are brought in for his consideration during an average week, he said.

He also attends book auctions and yard sales to keep his stores supplied.

"That's the real work in the business," he said. "The books sell themselves. I have to work to get them."

Mr. Morningstar buys almost any kind of book except Reader's Digest condensed books, pornography and magazines.

"Other than that, we're looking for just about every category under the sun," he said.

Opening a bookstore in Westminster was a homecoming for Mr. Morningstar, who grew up near New Windsor and graduated from Francis Scott Key High School.

The mothers of both Mr. Morningstar and his wife, Jane, a Taneytown native, still live in Carroll.

The Morningstars, who now live in Penmar, Washington County, opened the Waynesboro store three years ago. The store generally stocks about 30,000 books, Mr. Morningstar said.

"It's our sole means of support," said Mr. Morningstar, a former teacher and minister.

"We're both readers," Mr. Morningstar said. "We love to read. For a number of years we talked about opening a used book store when we retired. One thing led to another, and we just did it."

Mrs. Morningstar will run the Waynesboro store and Mr. Morningstar will operate the Westminster store, he said.

The Westminster store, at 73 W. Main St., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Wednesday and Sunday.

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