This is the exact location of my second bookstore, 140 South College, as seen in 1897. Opening as Toad Hall Books in 1983 at 147 W. Oak St., I moved the bookstore to 140 S. College in 1985, and later to Walnut Street in 1987. Two of the businesses that moved in when I left are still there, which is somewhat amazing. Haley’s Comics, at 322 Walnut Street, used to be in the back of Toad Hall Books, at 140 South College, and then moved to Walnut when I moved out. In total I have had seven locations and one downsize.
A used bookstore is not typically a thriving business. We dealers often joke that it is more a job than a business. It is better when combined with something else – like records or coffee. It often takes a steady second income in order to survive or, as the Old Corner Book Shop, owning the building and not having to pay rent. They lasted over 30 years.
Sometimes the bookstore passes through several owners, each one putting in considerable effort at “building” the business before someone eventually succeeds. The health and aging of the owner/s are also factors in the longevity of a bookstore. The Old Corner Book Shop, by the way, did begin on a corner. They occupied the space The Stone Lion bookstore eventually took over. They moved to Walnut Street and then to Linden. Jane Tester was not even the first owner. Today it exists as “Indigo Rose.”
Just as I have moved my store, other bookstores have migrated to what they hoped were greener pastures…i.e. lower rent and/or better location. Happenstance (after one move within Fort Collins), and The Bounty Book Hunter, left Fort Collins for Boulder and Estes Park respectively. The Bounty Book Hunter became Fine Old Books and then was sold, and later closed. The House of Paper Ships moved from Greeley to Fort Collins before closing. Old Firehouse Books traces its history back to the Cheyenne and Greeley “Book Racks,” a franchise. Susie Wilmer and Dick Sommerfeld purchased the Fort Collins’ Book Rack in 2001 from the Hawks, who opened it in 1980 and operated it for 20 years. It was then moved to 1801 South College in 2002 and later on moved and expanded into Old Firehouse Books in 2009, occupying the historic Fort Collins firehouse, previously occupied by The House of Paper Ships bookstore. In Loveland, a Book Rack moved and expanded to become Anthology bookstore, changed owners, and eventually closed.
Changing owners, changing locations, and changing names are all part of the book business. But let me tell you, you haven’t had a real moving experience until you have moved 500 or more boxes of books.