CARBONDALE — After a few roller-coaster rides in hopes of finding a buyer, The Bookworm has started to liquidate its inventory ahead of a closing date in May.
Bookworm owners Carl and Kelly Rexroad said they had a number of inquiries since the fall and a serious offer just this past month, but it fell through, and Carbondale’s final independent used bookstore will close its doors.
Rexroad said the business will attempt to sell as much product as it can, including the bookshelves, with a target date of May 5 to close. He said the business is a couple months behind because it was hanging on with hopes of a sale.
“I guess I’m more of a book person than I am a businessman,” he said. “I really wanted to see the bookstore continue.”
As for any inventory not sold, Rexroad said he’s talked to various entities in the area, including schools and libraries, about donating or selling. As the closure date moves closer, he said there will be a blowout sale. Any store credit still in the possession of consumers can be used on top of discounts.
Bookworm will mark 17 years in business this coming May, and Rexroad said he and his wife still enjoy running the business, but they have four young grandchildren, and the desire to spend time with them outweighs the want to run the store.
“I’ve seen too many people say they are going to do something tomorrow and then they don’t get a chance,” he said.
Even though the bookstore industry has seen many major chains close its doors nationwide and the independent bookstore industry struggle, Rexroad said 2017 saw some of the biggest revenues in the past four years.
“It (closing) wasn’t a decision we made because of financial things,” he said. “We just wanted to be able to do some other things while we are young enough and healthy enough.”
The emergence of electronic reading devices and internet sales made a difference when first introduced, but Rexroad said The Bookworm carved out a market with Southern Illinois-related books and paperbacks that were easier to buy locally than order online and apply shipping.
Running a used bookstore was always something Rexroad wanted to do and he got to live his dream for 17 years. When he was still in his 40s, he left his job as the editor of The Southern Illinoisan, and bought the bookstore, in the same location where it is now.
He said some of the success of the bookstore goes to the university community. He said as students and faculty would leave, they would leave books and literature with the store because they didn’t want to move it. Then, the next wave of students and faculty would repeat the cycle.
“The university community has been helpful as a source,” Rexroad said. “We get some really interesting and esoteric topics that are different.”
He said he really doesn’t want to give up the store, but the other part of it is being tied to retail hours and the fact that if he needed to leave town and close the store, there was still rent to pay, regardless of whether the store was open or not.
“That was probably the hardest part of it,” he said. “You can’t just walk away on a Saturday and go to your grandkid’s soccer game because Saturday is a big retail day.”
The memories will live with the couple forever and they will continue to be lovers of books and literature.
“It is definitely bittersweet,” Rexroad said. “With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I wish I would have started it earlier. I would be retiring after 30 years instead of 17.”
He said if somebody is still interested in buying the store, they are still willing to listen, but it would have to be a pretty quick transaction. The original sale included the inventory, shelving, signage, the name, and “hopefully 17 years of goodwill,” Rexroad said.
The sale would also include The Bookworm website and social media pages.