Tim and Judy Fout have a recurring nightmare—in the daytime.
Judy was in a grocery checkout line recently when she noticed a woman who looked like a teacher, holding a book. Since both women had a few moments before reaching the cash register, Judy introduced herself.
“I told her that my husband and I own a bookstore called A Reader’s Corner, and that we give teacher discounts,” Judy said. “She said, ‘Oh, I thought you were closed!’ We hear that so often.”
The misconception started last June when the store moved from St. Matthews to 2044 Frankfort Ave. in Clifton. The relocation may have confused some people, but those who have visited the new shop have found it more attractive and better stocked than ever.
Tim entered the used book market online in 1996. Within a few months, he and Judy decided that they were ready to open a bricks-and-mortar shop. In December 1997, they opened one on Wiltshire Avenue; and for five and a half years, they shared the building with The Wiltshire Pantry.That first location gave them 900 square feet. Their next move, to 138 Breckinridge Lane in 2003, provided about 2,600 square feet. The site offered good exposure to foot traffic and to drivers at the Willis Avenue intersection, but there was frequent congestion.
After about eight years on Breckinridge Lane, they moved the shop to its current spot, a frame building that comprises about 1,500 square feet.
“Our goal had been to stay in St. Matthews, but it didn’t work out. We looked at three storefronts, but each one fell through. This site was ours within days of finding it,” Judy said. “We think this is the right amount of space, and this is where we belong. The Crescent Hill neighborhood is very locally oriented. We’re more connected to businesses around here, and feel more a part of things.”
During A Reader’s Corner’s early days, the Fouts specialized in non-fiction, which Tim prefers; most of the fiction they carried was literature. The Breckinridge Lane site had room for expansion into half non-fiction, half fiction—including “the kind of mainstream books that people read for escapism,” as Judy described them.
“People with all kinds of interests still love coming to used bookstores,” she said. “I know a woman who travels and got tired of using her electronic reader. She’s going back to books. No one can tell her when and where she can read a book, including during take-off and landing. Used books are so inexpensive, you don’t worry if you lose one. People prefer holding them, too. And with electronic readers, when one with more gadgets comes along, you think you have to buy it. Books don’t change.”
A Reader’s Corner still sells books online through website Amazon.com, and other outlets, but that part of the business has dropped considerably since last year’s relocation. As Judy put it, “The store has to take priority.”
The Fouts estimate that they have 30,000 books in the store and stockroom. Unlike many bookshops, they have a substantial Religion section, which includes various translations of the Bible as well as commentaries.
“We have more serious philosophy and theology,” Tim said. “People are surprised to find that we also have an eclectic variety of remainders, selected for us by Harvey Venier. He used to be with Hawley-Cooke, and is one of the top remainders buyers in the country. We’re very fortunate to have him, because he adds so much to our store.”
Customers also are surprised that A Reader’s Corner discounts 20 percent on new books. Larger discounts may be available for new books bought in quantity, such as for book clubs or church groups. Teachers, whether in classrooms or home-school settings, receive a 25 percent discount. The shop has a contract to provide non-textbooks, such as classic novels, for the Jefferson County Public Schools system.
A Reader’s Corner has a children’s section, with story time on the second Saturday of each month. Youngsters receive refreshments and a free book; weather permitting, that event is held on the front porch.
Some older patrons are in a writer’s group that meets on Friday nights. Book-signings are popular, too: On June 21, for example, Tim’s friend James Grote will sign copies of Medieval Literacy, which includes essays about C. S. Lewis’s perspective on various aspects of the Middle Ages.
“We’re always looking for books and events that our customers will enjoy,” Judy said. “Even though we have less space than before, one of our goals is to fill it with better books. Another goal is, of course, to help people find us. We’re still around, and better than ever.”
A Reader’s Corner, 2044 Frankfort Ave., opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday; and opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m. Thursdays. On the final Friday of each month, it opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m. For more information, visit www.areaderscorner.com or phone 502.897.5578.