If bookstores offered frequent flier miles, Flo Chapa could travel the world. For years, she frequented Books-N-Things used bookstore on Pecan Boulevard in Pecan to satisfy her seven-book-a-week reading habit.
Four years ago, Chapa decided to ask owners Jesse and Mary Watson if she could buy the store. At the time, they had no interest in selling the 25-year-old business.
Not one to take no for an answer, Chapa continued trading and buying books at the store. Once a month, she would tell the store’s manager, Vicky Metzger, “I’m going to open a bookstore.”
This summer, Chapa’s persistence paid off. She received a call from Metzger letting her know the Watsons might be interested in selling. It was time for Chapa to fill her husband, Arnold, in on her plans. He was hardly surprised. After all, Flo has been self-employed since the age of 21in a variety of businesses. The couple also owns U.S. Floors in McAllen.
Within one week, Flo and the Watsons reached a deal, and then the whirlwind began. Flo had one month to find a new location for the store, which wasn’t as easy as people may think. She visited every viable location in McAllen before finding the new site at 1317 N. 10th Street, two blocks south of Pecan.
Luckily, Metzger, who has managed the store for 15 years, and Sarah Beyer, who has worked there for five years, wanted to keep their jobs. They proved to be invaluable when it came to moving, a colossal undertaking they completed in just three days. The Chapa family, Metzger and Beyer put the finishing touches on the store, and they opened their doors for business Aug. 1.
If you ever visited the original site, the first thing that will strike you about the new location is how bright it is. The shelves are painted a light gold, though Flo denies choosing that color because her daughter, Vanessa, teaches at McAllen High School where the colors are purple and gold. Their collection of 50,000 paperback books is neatly arranged by subject and author. Metzger and Beyer know exactly where customers can find any book in the store.
The shelves of the store are lined with an enormous selection of westerns, mysteries, romance, science fiction, horror, non-fiction, military, true crime, classics, biographies and almost anything else you can think of. End caps highlight “Vicky’s Picks,” “Oprah’s Book Club” selections and “Sarah’s Picks.” They also have a “New Releases” section they update regularly. Audiobooks are available, as well, perfect for those who travel for work and also for visually impaired individuals who can enjoy a great book by listening to it on tape or CD.
“We want everyone to know we trade and sell books,” Flo Chapa said. “Customers receive 50 percent off the cover price of the paperbacks they bring in to trade. All books are sold at 50 percent off the cover price, too.” Under the current economic conditions, readers can hardly beat that deal.
“We offer a tremendous variety, a tremendous savings and a helpful and knowledgeable staff,” Chapa added. “And we’re also contributing to the green movement because customers can recycle their books.”
Metzger and Beyer have settled right into the new location and are thrilled that they were able to keep the job they love. They cherish the relationships they have built with their customers. “You actually become like a bartender,” Metzger said as she chuckled. “Our customers tell us all about their lives.”
Books-N-Things is a place where readers can easily lose track of time as they marvel over the complete collection of Danielle Steel or Christine Fehan. Here, they will find books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Louis L’Amour, Ralph Compton and Tom Clancy, among many others. Customers will also discover many hard-to-find books. The one thing the store does not carry is college textbooks.
The transition from bookstore customer to bookstore owner has been much easier than Chapa expected.
I’m having a really good time with this,” Chapa said. “I’m surprised by how easy it has been.”
“And I’m surprised by how buff my right arm got from painting all these shelves,” Vanessa Chapa chimed in.
Flo has no plans to kick back and relax.
“We already have plans for the future,” she said. “We want to expand. We also want to have a room for meetings. We hope to have a book club, too.”
“And we’re going to get some ‘things,’” Vanessa said, referring to the name of the store, Books-N-Things.
“Exactly,” her mom said. “We want to get some nice book covers and works by local artists. We have ideas for other items, as well.”
Books-N-Things is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. There are parking spaces in front of the store and a large parking lot in back.
“Many people have told me this store was the best kept secret,” Flo said.
The secret’s out, and one of the store’s most frequent customers is now the excited new owner. Avid readers rejoice!