BATAVIA – A new independent bookstore in Batavia is proving that the printed page continues to hold great power even in the digital age.
Bookhunters New & Used Books has been open less than a month, and already is exceeding the owners’ expectations.
Located in the Fabyan Randall Plaza shopping center at 1938 W. Fabyan Parkway, Bookhunters offers more than 20,000 titles.
Experienced bookseller Vicki Allison and her husband, Derrick, said they want their store to be a fun place for readers to visit and browse. Vicki has been in the bookselling business virtually her whole life. She counts Joyce Carol Oates and Oscar Wilde among her favorite authors.
“I grew up in a house with thousands of books,” said Vicki, a native of Johnson City, Tennessee.
She worked in a bookstore owned by her father, a Baptist minister, before opening her first bookstore in Carmel, Indiana, under the Bookhunters name.
Vicki and Derrick later operated a Bookhunters on Route 59 in Naperville from 2009 to 2014.
For the next several years, Vicki nurtured the mail-order portion of her business, selling through Amazon and other online vendors, shipping the books from a Naperville warehouse filled with her vast inventory.
The couple learned of the vacant retail space in Batavia after Derrick rode past the shopping center on his motorcycle.
With a Trader Joe’s grocery store next door, the Allisons decided the location and time were right to get back into the brick-and-mortar game.
“It seemed like the demographics were right for us,” Derrick said.
The bookshop is decorated with posters of famous authors and other artwork designed to complement and identify each of the numerous book categories. Colorful kites hang from the ceiling, adding whimsy.
Eight-foot-high wood bookcases, each hand built by Derrick, hold hundreds of books apiece.
The bookcases are arranged to create intimate book nooks along both walls of the 2,100-square-foot linear space.
Categories of books range from classics to modern romance.
Vicki is proud of her large selection of fashion books, which are placed alongside the art and photography section at the front of the store.
Bookhunters has an extensive lineup of religious, theology and philosophy titles, Vicki said, including books on Jewish history and studies.
“Nobody in Chicago can rival us,” Vicki said.
Multiple bookcases and display tables feature history books, which are popular with men, Vicki said.
The big sellers right now are the young adult titles that are being bought by the armload by teenage girls, Vicki said. These romance and fantasy books often come as part of a series, and customers frequently snap up all the titles in one purchase, Vicki said.
On a recent visit to Bookhunters, a young woman was observed browsing in that section of the store before bringing about 10 books to the checkout.
“They are looking for escapism, especially right now after a year like the last one, which is understandable,” Vicki said.
The young adult section, which also includes graphic novels, is doing so well that the Allisons already are rethinking their floor plan to accommodate an expansion.
There are sections of the store dedicated to books on mathematics and technology, science, psychology, music and drama. Also featured are autographed first editions and leather-bound classics.
Bookhunters opened July 1 and has seen a steady stream of foot traffic and sales, much of it owed to the proximity of Trader Joe’s, both the Allisons said.
Online sales remain a major part of the business. At the front desk, tubs filled with parcels await delivery to the post office.
When opening the store, Vicki expected that online sales would continue to make up the bulk of the sales, about 80%. Instead, sales made directly from the shop and purchases made online have been about evenly split so far, Vicki said, an encouraging sign.
With her connections in the book publishing world, Vicki is able to buy titles at a steep discount, which is reflected in the store’s prices.
Bookhunters also buys volumes brought in by the public, but it is often difficult to tell the used books from the new books.
“We don’t buy anything that isn’t in like-new condition,” Derrick said.
The only clue that the Allisons recently moved into the space is found at the back of the store, where hundreds of books are piled on the floor, yet to be classified and priced.
In a storage area out of public view are 80 boxes filled with cookbooks acquired in one purchase that also are waiting to be processed before being placed on display.
“We’re constantly buying,” Derrick said.
IF YOU GO
What: Bookhunters New & Used Books
Where: 1938 W. Fabyan Parkway, Batavia
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Info: Call 630-432-4604 or email email@example.com.