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‘A little book-nuts’: Bank Books keeps reading personal

January 1, 2019
In this Dec. 26, 2018 photo, James Creek examines selections at Bank Books, in downtown Martinsburg, W.Va. Creek and his wife and Diane have owned and run the independent bookstore for the past several years. (Michael Neary/The Journal via AP)

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — Larry Cavagnaro’s quest for books generally leads him in a cluster of colorful directions.

“I kind of collect a little bit of everything,” said Cavagnaro, of Hedgesville, citing comic books along with books featuring role-playing games, surrealist art and other topics.

On Wednesday afternoon, Cavagnaro was shopping in Bank Books, at 145 S. Queen St., in Martinsburg.

“They’ve actually had some of the stuff that I’ve searched for over the years,” Cavagnaro said.

A small independent bookstore nestled in downtown Martinsburg, Bank Books boasts a collection that spans a sprawling range of genres — including a thriving children’s collection. The husband-and-wife team of James and Diane Creek own the store.

“We’re both a little book-nuts,” James Creek said. “Our house looks just like this bookstore.”

At a time when ebooks and online book sales are consuming more and more sales, Bank Books, the owners explained, still appears to connect with residents on personal levels.

“We have very good clientele,” said James Creek, who worked in construction for about 50 years before taking on the bookstore project. “It more than breaks even.”

The Creeks bought the building that houses Bank Books in 2013, taking over a book shop that had already enjoyed years of local popularity — along with a building that, for the bulk of the 20th century, harbored a bank. The Creeks reopened the store, which had been closed for a time, in 2014.

When the Creeks purchased the building, they were planning on converting the bookstore into a different kind of shop.

“I was looking for a place to have an antique shop,” Diane Creek said, but then she explained that the abundance of books — and the interest they generated — altered those plans.

“There were so many books,” she said. “And people were so excited about it being reopened.”

That excitement, as Diane Creek described it, flowed from a love not just of reading, but also of the physicality of books and the places where they can be found. The chance to stumble over an unexpected book, she suggested, is greater for a person roaming real, physical aisles — populated with people — than it is for someone shopping alone online.

“People like the atmosphere of a bookstore, and they like talking to other people about books,” she said, adding that the old bank building adds some intrigue, as well.

“People do get enthralled with the building — and with the vaults that are in there,” she said.

Rebecca Macchione, who works at the bookstore, said she converses with patrons about particular books as she makes recommendations. Macchione worked as a scientist in Salt Lake City, Utah, before moving to her current home near Gerrardstown about two years ago.

“I never thought that I could be a salesperson,” she said. “Now I know that if you’re selling something that you love, that you know, and that you’re very enthusiastic about, then it’s really quite easy.”

Books, Macchione explained, played vibrant parts in her life long before she took the job.

“I believe in books,” she said. “I believe in reading, and I read a lot.”

Most of the volumes at Bank Books are used, and some are new.

“We try to keep the books for sale very clean,” James Creek said. “Like new, but not necessarily new.”

James Creek said the books are replenished from a variety of sources, including donations, books exchanged for store credit, auctions and other sites. Creek said the store may be more likely to have older works by an author, rather something just published. And he doesn’t hesitate to refer people elsewhere, such as the local Books-A-Million store, if books are not available in the store.

One section of Bank Books is devoted to local authors, and Creek noted an upcoming book signing and discussion by local author Matthew “Maasaw” Howard, who wrote “Adonvdo Yona (Bear Spirit) Mountain: An Ancestral Awakening.” The signing is slated for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 12.

Creek said parts of the building not currently in use may one day be devoted to selling antiques, but for now the space is simply filled with books. And the range, he noted, reflects the wide swath of ground covered by his own reading interests and his wife’s preferences. Diane Creek, he said, leans toward books with more artistic orientations. His own reading tastes, he said, tend to be more pragmatic.

“I like math books,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m one of those people who like to read old math textbooks.”

People seeking more information about the store can go to https://b-m.facebook.com/BankBooks145/ or call 304-579-7280.

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Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/

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