Sunday, March 24, 2024

Reliant Bookstore - El Dorado, KS

Reliant Bookstore, El Dorado, KS

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In my 582 previous bookstore visits, I’ve experienced nothing like the Reliant Bookstore in El Dorado, KS.  Normal adjectives escape me and I failed to find words to define what I observed and learned.  I settled for incredulous and finally landed on speechless.  I met Jesse, who owns the business along with brothers Samuel, Stephen, and good friend Levi.  This place is an operation, a machine.  Most of their sales are made online and are available on multiple platforms.  They sell approximately 500 books/day and take in 1-2 semis of used books/week (no wonder they own a couple of forklifts!).  At one time, the business was operating two shifts/day but they’ve backed off of that model for now.  This bookstore began as an online store only in May 2019 and only opened its brick and mortar in the last 2 1/2 years.  The brick and mortar is merely the tip of the iceberg for the store and the business.  Because of how the business began, it has very little widespread recognition.  But I’m here to tell you this place is on a hot rocket ride to a large scale, book-selling business. 

The headquarters for the store is the building that was home to the local newspaper, The El Dorado Times.  The building sat empty for years until Jesse and his brothers decided it would be right for the Reliant Bookstore.  This beautiful and modern looking building provides a large warehouse with a shipping and receiving dock, and a spacious basement level with wall to wall shelves for storage, and a very attractive bookstore space in the front of the building.  They have additional storage off-site at another warehouse, the West Warehouse.  All told, they have approximately 115,000 books and it’s growing (just since my visit I’m confident saying the total has surpassed this).  

Can you have a good bookstore experience here?  Absolutely!  Neat, well-organized, and comfortable seating are appealing to any visitor.  If you’re a writer, consider coming to the store for The Writer’s Club.  Or if Dungeons & Dragons is your thing, come to the store and enjoy that activity.  Do you want to bring your used books to Reliant?  Come on down!  Your credit/cash won’t be determined by the titles or number of books though.  You’ll get your compensation by how much your books weigh.  They pay by the pound!  

Jesse is as enthusiastic as any owner I’ve met.  Part of that energy is because I can tell he works his butt off.  If you’re in the El Dorado area this is a MUST SEE.  Get in on the ground floor now and visit this terrific bookstore, a store and business that I can guarantee has big things ahead.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir. 

JUST FINISHED:  A Winter's Rime, Carol Dunbar.  Another in a long line of super Wisconsin authors that I enjoy.  Mallory had a dysfunctional childhood, dysfunctional parents, dysfunctional school friends, and dysfunctional relationships.  She places the blame for everything on herself and must eventually learn how to turn this around and deal with her anger management.  One of my favorite things in this book is her job at Speed Stop, an obvious comparison to an upper Midwest convenience store fixture found in almost every town, Kwik Stop. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Pony Express Rides On, Mabel Loving. 

Beautiful storefront and former home of The El Dorado Times. 

Looking straight into the bookstore from the front entrance. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance. 

Look for this llama and find the game created by the Reliant staff. 

Head to the far left and enjoy this wall of books. 

A great place to lounge with a beverage and a book to the far left back of the store. 

A perfect place for games, clubs, or activities. 

Below this sign are many games you can play when you visit. 

Head to the right side of the store for this browsing. 

Prices are posted. 

Locally created candles. 

Two of my favorites which would pair well with any book. 

You can also find music on vinyl. 

Overview of the warehouse behind the bookstore area. 

At one time, all of these boxes were filled with books.  This is another partial view of the warehouse. 

The basement level is packed with aisles of books. 

Another overview of the lower level. 

Yes, photographic evidence that this bookstore actually owns a forklift. 

One of the reasons this building sat empty so long is because of this hole between two floors.  This picture shows the basement level looking up to the lights on the first floor. 

This blue tank container was part of the newspaper business and was where the ink for the papers was held.  There is still ink in this tank today.  Reliant will part with this and interested parties should contact them for details. 

Well, you might as well. 

People interested in doing local research can visit the El Dorado Times Archives in the bookstore. 

More than just books.

With Jesse on the right, the fine co-owner at the Reliant Bookstore.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Rivendell Bookstore - Abilene, KS

Rivendell Bookstore, Abilene, KS

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This is another one of MANY bookstores I visit that I hope can provide encouragement to other small towns who have nothing.  That’s because if it can succeed and thrive here in a town of approximately 6500 it can happen in your small town if you have the right owner.  The right owner at THIS indie is Lisa S., who just began her ownership position within the last year.  But this indie was around way before this for more than 15 years and Marilyn was the owner and founder until Lisa took over.  Credit to Marilyn for the great job of getting Rivendell off the ground but in her words, Lisa has taken it to a whole new level.  That was clear to me on the day of my visit and when I asked Lisa what her secret was she told me, “because I’m good.”  Even though she’s only owned the store for a year, she spent several years learning the business from Marilyn as a bookseller.  She already knew what to stock thanks to her relationship with Marilyn and the many local regular customers who come to Rivendell.  On the job training made it easy for Lisa to step into ownership.  

This creatively arranged store allows for a unique browsing experience that includes new and used books shelved together.  For customers who bring books in they can receive store credit in return.  But as Lisa told me, they’re particular about what they take. Best of all for customers is that the store has the used books entered in a data base so they know exactly what they have.  Customers can’t purchase books online yet but Lisa hopes to offer that sometime in the future.  The store offers a nice variety of sidelines including puzzles, teas, and loose dice but without a moments hesitation Lisa said stickers are THE hot sideline here, something I've heard everywhere.

If you’re planning summer travels, Abilene is easy to visit just off I-70.  Head to the store’s great location in the heart of downtown Abilene and enjoy the company of kind, knowledgeable people like Lisa, Sam, and Marilyn who can help you find your next great read.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Cactus League, Emily Nemens.  I was hoping this would be a little bit more about baseball but it's relevance to baseball is due to the characters involved in baseball.  A bit slow in places but maybe that's like a baseball game itself for some people.  This book was nothing but a big fat strike out for me.  There are many baseball books out there much better than this one. 

CURRENTLY READING:  A Winter's Rime, Carol Dunbar. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Legends & Lattes, Travis Baldree.  


The historic building in downtown Abilene. 

Picture of the same historic building when it was much newer.  I love it when I get to see things like this. 


The store has a lot of display window space.  This is only some of it. 

When you enter the front doors you can go to the left...

...or you can go to the right.  A fork in the road right off the bat!

This is what you'll see if you go to the right. 

Looking toward the back of the store from the right side choice of entry. 

The stickers are hot sellers and it looks like a good variety to me. 

Looking at a cross section across the front of the store. 

Wonderful table display for kids' books. 

New customers take note. 

One of the many book nooks. 

Looking across the back section of the store. 

Overview of the mystery area and just some of those books offered. 

If you ever wonder about books that are part of a series, how many, and what order, head to this display. 

Historic buildings tell many stories.  At one time, this space was home to Hamburg's Ladies Fashions.

For a great assortment of puzzles head to this display in the back of the store. 

If this were your TV, you'd have no other choice. 

A perfect place to sit and chat about books. 

I took this overview of the store from the back balcony, a common design found in old department stores.  The bookshelves make it a fun maze. 

View across the balcony in the back of the store. 

Just a few of the books by local authors. 

Take a look around the store for book art like this. 

Always one of my favorite promotions. 

These dice are selling well. 

Books made famous on social media. 

A great way to help your local school and support a local business.  This is a win-win for Abilene.

Overview of the children's area. 

With Lisa, the fine owner at Rivendell Bookstore.  Thanks for a great visit.