Bookstore a hobby as well as a business
BULLHEAD CITY — As the customer readied to leave, he complimented the owner of the small bookstore tucked along Highway 95 as a family man, devoted friend and good person.
Daren Freeman, owner of the Paperback Book Exchange, 1960 Highway 95 Suite 2, buys, sells and trades books but the store offers more than discounted reading material.
It offers readers a personal, nostalgic experience, away from digital screens and technology.
The family business has been in operation since 1986, Freeman said.
At one point, his family owned three book stores but two have since closed, a side effect of the public’s shift to digital from print, he noted.
It began with his mom working at The Bookworm on Hancock Road. When the owner retired, his parents purchased the store.
Freeman’s mother died about six years ago but his father, Duane Freeman, still reads two books a day, most often historic romances and Scottish lore.
“Since I was a little kid, going to a book store was like the candy store,” Duane Freeman said, enjoying the escape books provide and learning.
Owning the book stores may have been business but it was more like a hobby, Duane Freeman said.
With time on his hands, reading has increased since Duane Freeman retired, and that has been a benefit to Daren Freeman. It means Daren is armed with information and can make recommendations to customers, Duane Freeman said.
For Daren Freeman, one of the best parts of the book store is seeing the looks on people’s faces when they find the book they are looking for, he said.
That process of helping someone find the book they want, helps create conversation and friendships, Freeman said.
He is able to build a rapport with customers and they keep coming back, allowing him to get to know the community, he said.
The second-generation bookstore owner said most of his customers are of an older generation, instead of younger readers who are used to digital devices.
Paperback Book Exchange customers are still looking for the tactile sensation of a physical book, rather than the ease of digital devices, Freeman said.
“They want to feel the pages,” Freeman said.
Electronic devices don’t have the familiar smell of books, the scent of ink and paper.
After his days off, Freeman enjoys the pleasant smell coming from the books first thing in the morning, giving him a good feeling from the store.
He tried using a digital device before, he said, but didn’t like it; he likes how the pages feel in his fingers, Freeman mused.
Many readers come in looking for romance, Westerns or mysteries, though there is a much wider variety of books available including some children’s books, historical, horror, science fiction and biographies.
The store has about 30,000 books, Freeman said.
While many of the books are gently used, he does order new books for customers as needed.
Freeman frequently sees people coming in to donate, trade, sell or buy books and the store has a special case featuring first editions.
Freeman recalled one woman who donated 15 boxes of books, helping him restock his shelves.
When it comes to stock, Freeman said, he goes with the flow of customers that he gets. He restocks and changes out books based on who’s coming in.
The digital world has impacted book stores, but Freeman said recent articles indicate that books may be coming back in vogue.
Some parents are turning off electronic devices and the internet and having children read again, he said.
There is some hope that he’ll be able to reach out and get some of those young readers, he said.
“(People are) tired of looking at computer screens,” said Freeman’s sister, Becky Schlussler.
The hope is the trend will continue and help keep the book business open because there is some potential for the torch to be passed to the next generation.
There is talk of possibly passing on the business and keeping it in the family depending on what Freeman’s son decides to do after high school, Schlussler said.
The store is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.