It’s hard to believe Seekonk has just one bookstore, but it’s true. It’s not even a big box store, but rather an honest to goodness mom and pop shop.
s, located in the strip mall on Commerce Way across from Kohl’s, has been thriving for almost 14 years. They primarily carry secondhand books in all the usual fiction genres including romance, suspense, mystery, historical fiction, classics, fantasy, children’s books and, yes, teen fiction, a genre that has exploded in the last five years with the success of the ‘Twilight’ series. They also carry the usual non-fiction suspects including cookbooks, history, new age, religion, biography and more. Because almost everything is used, owner Christine Sullivan says they also have rare finds and an ever-changing collection.
Sullivan has a background in both accounting and elementary education, both of which have surely come in handy with Browser Books. She opened the shop with her husband and, though they are now divorced, the two remain friends and involved together in the business. Alongside two other employees, their 16 year-old daughter works on weekends in the summer, making it a true family affair.
Browser Books is heading into a busy season as they seek out enough copies of books on high school reading lists. Sullivan says they provide books to students at schools all over the region from the East Bay of Rhode Island to Attleboro. The schools are in the habit of mailing their reading lists early so the store can get as many secondhand copies in stock as possible. One of the clients, a retired English teacher, helps out by traveling around New England to library sales, book stores and book sales purchasing books for the store. New copies of books are purchased once the search has been exhausted.
Customers – up to 20 a day – bring in their used books and receive trade credit or cash for them. Cash items include, for example, current best sellers, award winning children’s books and other highly desirable items. Older books and general inventory will earn customers a trade credit, which ranges between 30 percent (for things like an older Mary Higgins Clark or John Grisham novel) to 50 percent (for a new release hardcover.)
Books that aren’t chosen for the store are either picked back up by the customers or donated to elderly housing, health centers, local libraries and charities.
Over the years, Sullivan and her employees have found letters, photographs, recipes, money and more inside the merchandise.
“I was going through a batch one day and there was something squishy in with the books,” says employee Valerie Saunders. “It turned out to be a rotten orange.”
The downturn in the economy has not hurt the business since secondhand items are much more discounted than new items. Sullivan also says new digital reading devices like the Kindle haven’t hurt business either.
“I have such a large customer base that are book lovers, and they just want to hold that book in their hands,” she says.
Both Saunders and Sullivan say the best part of the job is getting to know the customers, some of which visit the store on a weekly basis.
“I love that I know people by name. We’re like the bar in the show ‘Cheers’,” says Sullivan. “It’s a very pleasant atmosphere to work in. It’s a ‘feel good’ feeling that you get.”
“We get to know customers like a pharmacist gets to know their patients,” Saunders adds.