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For the week of April 25 through May 1, 2001

Read all about it

Local book store stateís largest independent

Express Staff Writer

Special to the community! Extra! Extra!

Read all About It, the bookstore, is now the largest independent book store in Idaho, thanks to a recent move across the hall in the building it occupies on Main Street in Hailey.

Bryan Gardner, proprietor of Read All About It in Hailey, expanded his business into largest independent book store in Idaho. Express photo by David N. Seelig

That designation is based on three criteria, said proprietor Bryan Gardner. The first is square footage, then linear space and finally number of titles. Gardner said he is already the largest by the first two standards, and as soon as the upstairs of the new space is finished, he will be carrying more titles than any other independent in the state.

The store now measures 1,200 square feet downstairs and 1,500 square feet upstairs in what will be known as the Childrenís Loft. It will carry, besides books, stationary and cards, videos, music, educational games and toys, and cognitive items including a slightly hush-hush "launch of a new venture," he said.

Gardner opened Read all About It in 1995. He had moved here the year before from Oklahoma to manage the now defunct Main Street BookCafť, in Ketchum.

Read All About It, at first, was a mere 253 square feet. Later it was expanded to 723 square feet.

"The first store was a reaction, [to the BookCafe closing]" Gardner said. "It wasnít planned to have it that small."

Currently, the store carries a variety of items from all kinds of books, to maps, toys, journals, games, sealing wax, crystals, bags, cards, stationary and papers.

Competition for local book stores comes from the Internet and Costco, Target and Barnes & Noble, all in Twin Falls, and even libraries.

"Itís a very unique challenge," he said, "to sell the same homogeneous product. The challenge lies in the product mix, customer service, willingness to go the extra mile and availability."

Fortunately, he acknowledges that the "general public is aware that if you donít support something, it disappears."

Besides running and expanding the store, overseeing three school book fairs each year, (two for Hailey Elementary and one for Bellevue), Gardner is busy running Web site fulfillment. "Itís been growing for me tremendously," he said. For instance, "We do only cookbooks for four Web sites."

One might order Cucina Simpatica: Robust Trattoria Cooking, for example, from a Web site, and without being aware of it actually receive it from Read All About It.

As for trends in book stores, more seems to be more. Until recently, Harry Potter and off-spring (games, puzzles, new books, etc.) were still the biggest sellers. Gardner says that other than seasonal sellers such as travel books during slack, the hot new thing will be the Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. The main character is 10 years old and it involves spiders. Sounds promising.

Gardner has carved quite a niche for himself in the past six years. Schools outside of the valley, including those in Carey, Fairfield and Richfield, have approached him to run their book fairs for them, which benefit the school libraries.

"My plate is full," he said modestly.


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