HOLTS SUMMIT — What started as a book sale to help bring a library to Holts Summit is morphing into a full-fledged bookstore.
Now, the future Retold Tales used bookstore has received a big boost in the form of two giant donations of books from former bookstore owners.
"This is the only way we can think of to pay them back and let them know they're great," Marty Wilson said Thursday.
Wilson is a member of the Holts Summit Community Empowerment Foundation, the organization which banded together to entice the Daniel Boone Regional Library to put a library in Holts Summit. In the process, the foundation took on $325,000 in debt to pay for renovations to the now-home of the Holts Summit Public Library.
"This space in the Summit Plaza had set empty for 15 years," Wilson said.
The idea to put a library there was hatched over dinner, when Joseph Wang, a doctor who owns the property, and Marty Wilson, a local real estate agent, were at an event for their daughters' volleyball team last December. Wang complained of his difficulties in finding a business to rent the space, and on a whim, Wilson proposed a library.
But DBRL wasn't initially receptive.
"They said, 'Every town with an empty building wants a library. We don't have the money,'" Wilson said.
The foundation closed the deal by agreeing to renovate the space and pay for the first two years' rent. In hopes of offsetting some of those costs, the group hosted a series of book sales. It had gathered some 4,000 cases of used books.
"Every weekend, people would come in and ask if we'd do this again next week," Wilson recalled.
Book donations kept pouring in, with the group receiving about 1,000-3,000 books per weekend. Sales stayed high, averaging between $500-$1,000. Though Wilson said the foundation never planned to run a bookstore, once the idea was planted, it proved irresistible.
The bookstore is located directly adjacent to the library. Minimally renovated, it's essentially a large, empty room packed with bookcases (an early donation from a shuttering Barnes & Noble). Volunteers, including Wilson's daughter, open it Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
However, it's been closed the last few weekends — for exciting reasons.
Village Books, a used bookstore in Columbia closed at the end of August. Before closing the doors, co-owner Doug Wilson (no relation to Marty) reached out. Doug told Marty he'd heard about the foundation's store and offered to donate Village Books' entire stock, including the shelves. Marty Wilson accepted eagerly.
For the last few weeks, volunteers have been frantically assembling shelves and sorting through the pile of book boxes occupying a good chunk of Retold Tales' floor.
Incredibly, it's not even the first time this has happened. Not long before, former owner of Well-Read Books Brian Warren offered to donate a whole storage unit full of books, plus use of his Amazon store.
"We're now the largest used book store in Mid-Missouri," Wilson said.
Book and monetary donations are always welcome, he added.
Wilson said the foundation hopes to expand the store's hours in January, under the new Retold Tales name. It'll continue to be staffed with volunteers, with all funds going toward paying off the renovation debt.
Eventually, once the debt is sufficiently depleted, the foundation plans to move the store to another location and sell it. The empty space will become a before- and after-school program venue.
Wilson said one of the motivations is to help lessen the divide between the city's two elementary schools, Callaway Hills Elementary and North Elementary. North Elementary has consistently scored higher in science, language arts and math proficiency scores than Callaway Hills, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website.
Additionally, the DBRL plans to put forward a levy increase on the April 2020 ballot. If passed, the increase would help fund the Holt Summit Public Library's continued presence in town and pay for expanded hours and staffing.