“The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap” Reviewed by Ellen Campbell
Author: Wendy Welch
Reviewed by Ellen Campbell
I’m often drawn to books reviewed on Public Radio’s “All About Books”, a 10-minute program on Thursdays during the noon hour. Such was the case of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap
I requested it at our library and was pleased when it was ordered. I was not disappointed.
This is the true story of Wendy Welch and her Scottish husband Jack who had talked for years about some day owning a book store. When they moved to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, for Wendy’s new job, they saw this large old house and unexpectedly became the broke and terrified owners of the five-bedroom, three-bath-with-one-working Edwardian mansion. Here was where their bookstore would be.
There was much work to be done before they made the upstairs their living quarters and the downstairs a used book store. It was not easy the first two years. People didn’t expect them to stay in business. Town folks and even their own relatives would make comments like “A bookstore? You’re nuts.” They had no working capital until their former home was sold, and no starter stock except from their own extensive book collections. Jack made all the shelves himself, and Wendy went to garage sales to purchase cheap books. Later, people gave them large quantities of books. The couple soon learned which ones would never sell, and placed those in a free box on the porch.
They served tea and Jack’s delicious scones from the outset, and began running special events at the store, some of which were completely madcap but enjoyed by those who attended, and others such as book discussions and craft sessions for special interest groups.
Publicity had to be mostly by word-of-mouth and flyers placed around town. The two cats who roamed the store attracted certain customers, and others came to see what was going on after hearing about the store from friends. Jack applied for membership in the Kiwanis club in hope of making contacts there but, as luck would have it, Wendy’s bitter former employer was the Kiwanis president. Jack received a pointed rejection letter which Wendy promptly framed and posted on the wall. The notoriety of that letter drew visitors who came especially to see it but ended up buying books.
The book is full of such humorous episodes as well as some touching moments when people share their problems with Wendy over a cup of tea in the same way they do with their hair dressers or bar tenders. After about five years, the bookstore was a definite success, and is still owned and operated by Wendy and Jack.
Anyone who likes books will enjoy this one, as Wendy writes of their trials and triumphs. If you decide to at least leaf through the book, be sure to read Chapter 20, starting on page 197. Though I loved the entire book, this chapter was my favorite.