Local woman puts her own touch on established used bookstore

May 7, 2019

FORT MOHAVE — Donya Elsten said that for years she longed for a den with bookshelves that went from floor to ceiling.

Elsten sort of fulfilled that desire earlier this year when she took over “Buy The Book” from longtime owner Maxine McGinnis. The business is at 5630 Highway 95.

“I can come to read anytime I want,” she said.

Elsten has been short on time for recreational reading. Instead, she has been devoting a significant amount of her time to making the used bookshop her own.

The business came with about 75,000 books from a variety of genres, including Western, romance, self-help, true crime, nonfiction and Christian.

“I wanted to start a business but I didn’t have a specific type of business in mind,” she said.

She has been studying business and other disciplines at Mohave Community College. It’s likely she will take the next semester off to devote more time to the shop.

Elsten said she is happy to write down whatever title someone might want but can’t find at the shop and take on the search herself. If she hasn’t seen it in stacks or in the overflow boxes and bags sitting in her garage, she’ll continue the search online and order it.

Even in a business where trades are welcome and many products cost only a few dollars, customer service is still important, she emphasized.

The science fiction portion of the store is the most popular, she said. Mysteries and stories about war and history also are high-interest subjects. Selections by William Johnstone, best known for authoring Westerns; Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels; and David Baldacci, an author of mostly thrillers, pique the curiosity of many people who come to the shop looking for something interesting to read.

People who need large-type books can find some of those titles as well.

“I try to touch every single book to see what I have,” she said.

There also are plenty of titles people might not be looking for when they arrive. Often after looking around, something displayed on a shelf might turn out to be of interest.

Alongside books by and about highly regarded politicians, entrepreneurs and intellectuals were copies of other books authored by two once highly regarded but now disgraced actor-comedians: Bill Cosby and Roseanne Barr. Cosby is serving time in prison for sex offenses and Barr — known for controversial behavior — made a racist tweet last year that derailed her comeback to television in a “Roseanne” sitcom revival.

They aren’t exactly high-demand titles but some people remain interested in such subjects or “are just curious,” Elsten said.

And books that were once hot, but today are not, also can be found.

She has two copies of “Skinny Bitch,” a diet book popular during the aughts but now mostly faded from public consciousness.

“You never know what you’re going to find,” Elsten said.

She continues to re-shelve and rearrange the selections and has renamed the store “Donya’s Buy The Book.” It was a move to allow people to differentiate between her business and another seller also called “Buy the Book.”

Elsten has obtained hundreds more books since taking over the shop on Feb. 1. She sells through Amazon a small number of books that don’t seem to catch the interest of customers who come to the shop.

As long as used books are in readable condition — not without a cover, binding falling apart or overly written in or highlighted so heavily to be unreadable — Elsten will consider accepting four books in exchange for one “like” book in the store.

That means four paperbacks for one paperback, for example.

If there are multiple copies of a title, she might reject a trade only because it would take a long time to be sold or swapped out, she explained.

Former owner McGinnis, a businesswoman and author, still owns Maxine’s Place in Golden Valley but is looking to sell that bookstore as well so she can retire.

She is known for advancing interest in reading and for other community endeavors.

Regarding Elsten now owning the Fort Mohave shop, she said, “I’m really happy she’s there. This has worked out really well.”

Easton, a former Mohave Valley Daily News employee who was a customer service-circulation representative and the newspaper’s coordinator of Newspapers in Education, said she’d love to see local book clubs use her shop for their meetings.

“I have this big table that would be perfect,” she said as she pointed toward the piece of furniture near the entrance of the shop. There was a box of free cookbooks sitting on top of it.

The box recently contained a large number of travel magazines also free for the taking.

Elsten also conducts notary and fax services at the location.

Donya’s Buy The Book is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For details, call Elsten 928-768-1846 or email donyaelsten@gmail.com.