TAKE 5: Downtown book store bolsters nonprofits, promotes literacy

May. 24, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

This week, we Take 5 with Robin Goodwin, the store manager of the nonprofit “Books at a Steal” used book store. Although used bookstores are common, used bookstores with a philanthropic viewpoint are few in number. In December 2010, two directors of local nonprofits in Lee County opened Books at a Steal — located at 106 S. Steele St. — with the idea of reinvesting the bookstore’s revenue into local programs to support families and young children.

What’s your background, and how would you describe your role as the Books at a Steal store manager?

I am a native of Ohio, and I’m married with four children. My husband was in the military and was transferred here. We fell in love with North Carolina, especially Sanford. I have worked in various retail settings. I am a lover of books and used to be a bookstore volunteer.

As a volunteer, I loved meeting the customers, finding out what they liked to read and helping them find a great book. The excitement on people’s faces when finding a book they have been looking for, then realizing how cheap it is to purchase, is priceless.

As the store manager, I work 20 hours per week organizing the volunteer pool and developing a calendar to remind the volunteers when it is their date/time to work in the store. Also, I shelve books and keep the store clean and neat. When we have new volunteers, I spend time training them until they are comfortable working with someone when I am not there. My favorite part continues to be helping the customer find the perfect book to read!

Why did two nonprofits start a used book store?

The bookstore opened as a nonprofit with the intent that revenues would be channeled into two local nonprofits that provide services for children and families — Coalition for Families in Lee County (Coalition) and Lee County Partnership for Children (LCPFC). The economic climate has been challenging for area businesses and industries in the for-profit sector. Likewise, nonprofits face challenges during a weak economy because they rely on the generosity of donors, both individual and corporate, and government grants. Both agencies are focused on family support and preparing young children for success. Therefore, Books at a Steal was also developed to promote literacy and offer families and individuals with the opportunity to own great books at wonderful prices. Promoting literacy lays the foundation for early success in education, in life, and in the community.

How do you get your books?

Books at a Steal operates on book donations. The store accepts books from preschool levels to adult readers, both fiction and nonfiction of varied categories. Children’s books are one of the hardest to keep stocked. Children like to hold onto their books, not letting go of their favorites as readily as adults. However, the store recently has shelved a new supply of children’s books. At amazing prices, parents can stock up on books for their little ones.

Books at a Steal does not accept textbooks, encyclopedias, condensed books, magazines or VHS movies because they tend to not be good sellers. Donations are accepted during normal business hours.

How can someone get involved in the store?

As a nonprofit, the bookstore relies heavily on volunteers to sort, categorize and shelve books, man the bookstore during open hours and generally manage the day-to-day operations.

Many newcomers have added themselves to the volunteer list since the store opening and are contributing both time and energy. Volunteers’ support and donations have been keys to the bookstore’s success.

With summer months approaching, volunteers are traveling, and there is a huge need for a larger volunteer pool. If you’re interested in volunteering, stop by the store in the mornings or call (919) 776-0642 and ask for me. Volunteers work in pairs and only work three hours at a time. Individuals can decide for themselves how often they want to be put on the rotation system, from once per week to once per month.

What makes Books at a Steal so special, and what has been the public’s response?

Books at a Steal doesn’t just sell great books at great prices; there is more to its appeal. With a warm, inviting atmosphere, relaxed seating and friendly volunteers, Books at a Steal invites you in to get lost in a book, find a new author to rendezvous with or simply fall in love with books all over again. The response was great from the first day and continues to be very positive. There are comments heard every day, such as, “I am so glad Sanford finally has a bookstore.” Almost every day, someone comes in with books to donate.

Currently the store participates in downtown’s 2nd Sunday event, running specials, such as all books for only $1. As the leadership moves forward, they welcome ideas and suggestions from readers as to the kind of activities they would like to see at the bookstore. This isn’t just a bookstore, but a place for the community to come together in the name of literacy.

We’re open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.