It's not often that one finds work that is a labor of love. But according to Jeff Yanc, co-owner of independent bookstore Reader's Oasis, his position as head book buyer and events coordinator was just that.
But after five years, his labor of love is coming to an end: Reader's Oasis will sell its last book on Oct. 22.
Opened by Yanc and co-owners Charlene Taylor, Lynn LaPlant and Jason Shults on Oct. 1, 2000, the store focused on general-interest books. Taylor was the former owner of independent mystery bookstore Clues Unlimited. Yanc, LaPlant and Shults were involved with The Book Mark, which closed in 1999.
Reader's Oasis was known for hosting literary events, inviting both local and national authors into its cozy atmosphere. Although the events were popular, they weren't enough to keep the store in good financial standing.
"We've been struggling the entire time we've been open," says Yanc. "We never really ended up turning a profit. You have to turn a profit at some point. We got too far behind the financial eight-ball."
Although the decision to close the store was made quickly this month, it was something that Yanc and the other co-owners saw coming. "About every year we've been open, we have discussed the possibility of closing. It's always been a cloud looming over the store," he says.
But two years ago, a brief silver lining was visible. "We sent out a plea to the community saying we needed help. We got a great response. But it was really a Band-Aid on a larger wound."
The co-owners considered putting out another call for assistance, but felt that would be an act of desperation. With the store's lease ending in October, Yanc and the other co-owners felt the time was right to terminate the business.
Yanc says the major issue behind the store's financial struggle was increasing online and chain-store competition. "Initially, when the chains moved in to town, it was a big issue. But the main aspect was the online competition. Amazon has become much more prevalent over the years."
Another problem was getting consistent, regular customers into the store. "We succeeded at hosting good events. That made us look successful; it was deceptive. We were succeeding doing events, but it didn't translate into money to keep the store alive."
A farewell book sale will be held through Oct. 22, with increasing discounts every two weeks. Literary events will continue through September. Yanc stresses that customers should not feel ghoulish by coming in. "We need to get rid of inventory to pay our debts."
As Yanc ends his tenure at Reader's Oasis, he looks back on a positive note. "This was something we all loved doing. I have no regrets. We did everything we could as well as we could. It was fun and great, but it was not possible to continue."