Barbara Kerschner is ready to write the next chapter in her life, but first, she is trying to figure out what to do with some books — some 150,000 books.
Shelf after shelf after shelf. From floor to ceiling, from room to room, beam to beam. Upstairs, downstairs. Books, books, and more books in the pale yellow house with lima-bean green trim.
With its Munchkin Book Shop name, it’s often mistaken for a children’s book store. One step inside tells the real story: These are used paperback books for adults.
And more than once during her 32-year run at the shop, Mrs. Kerschner has had to explain that the business isn’t an “adult book store,” but rather a book store where the books are for adult readers.
Many of the books, likely 90 percent, are romances — Kiss Me Annabel, Promise Canyon, The Tarnished Lady — with some considered as the “bodice-ripper” variety. That helps explains the fabric book covers sold at the store. Some fans of bodice-rippers (think books with a racy sort of artwork on the covers, men and women in sultry embraces with a — just think about it for a minute; you’ll get it) prefer to keep their books underwraps while reading in a crowded waiting room at the doctor’s office.
“Romance sells. Romance has always been my number one best sellers,” said Mrs. Kerschner, who is retiring and closing the shop Dec. 1. Popular too: mysteries and westerns and crime. “Romantic suspense is becoming increasingly popular.”
Her fave: cowboy romance. “I want a book that tells me a good story.”
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Mrs. Kerschner said she took over the business from her friend Theresa Cleland, co-owner of Cleland’s Outdoor World. Three decades ago, the business at 10435 Airport Hwy. near the Toledo Express Airport had about 1,000 books, said Mrs. Kerschner, who noted the book shop got its name from the 5-foot-tall Mrs. Cleland.
The Munchkin house, owned by Mrs. Cleland, also is located next door to Cleland’s Outdoor World.
Esther Davis, who works part-time at Cleland’s, said she wasn’t much into reading until someone gave her a couple of books when she worked at Lourdes University. Now at age 70, “I’m hooked on reading,” she said, adding she plans to purchase a tall stack of books from Mrs. Kerschner, described by Ms. Davis of Swanton Township as “the sweetest lady.”
It’s the people the business owner will miss. Her customers — she refers to them as “the ladies” — come in, knowing where to find their must-read authors’ books.
At age 75, Mrs. Kerschner wants to pursue other interests, such as rug hooking, working crossword puzzles, and attending her grandchildren’s softball and baseball games.
When she worked weekends, she couldn’t attend the games. She would sit at the shop, wondering how the game was going, whether her granddaughter was up to bat, and whether it was a swing and a miss or a swing and a hit.
“I am missing no more ball games,” Mrs. Kerschner said.
Too, she’ll have more time to spend with her husband, Delbert; the Waterville-area couple just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.
It was on an August day this last summer when she decided enough is enough. Time to retire. “One day, I just said, ‘I’m closing the store. I’m done.’ ”
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Business isn’t booming in an era of e-book readers, mobile electronic devices designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books. She ticks off a list of book stores, many bigger than hers, that shuttered their doors in recent years in the Toledo area.
What will happen now to the inventory of 150,000 books? A shrug. A sigh. “I have no idea yet,” she said as a string of bells jingle jangle, announcing the arrival of customers.
Plainly, they’ve never been here before.
“We drive by all the time and always thought it was little kids’ books, then when I heard the store was closing, I thought maybe I could find some books,” said Harold Kinker of Springfield Township who said he likes to read military books, such as those about the Civil War and World War II. When he finds a particularly good book, he buys it for his collection. He purchased one book the other day. Books at the shop are selling for 50 cents each.
A “business for sale” sign is posted on the front yard. A hand-written notice on a window, about the shop closing Dec. 1, has “Sorry” inked near the new hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Taking the business online where paperback books sometimes sell for a penny apiece isn’t an option for her.
A hummingbird feeder, now abandoned as seasons change; American flags, and a Munchkinlike yard statue — the other four were stolen — decorate the shop’s front porch area, as does a sculpture of decorative wires dressed with empty bottles. Customers have added pop, wine, garlic oil, and beer bottles, in a tasteful interesting fashion. Mrs. Kerschner laughs at the interaction of customers with her through the years.
“I will miss the regulars. I will miss the people,” she said. “I love the shop. I have had a fine 30 years. I have made lots of friends,” she said. Customers are stopping by, saying farewell. “I don’t want you to leave,” they tell her.
As she closes the book on the business, she’ll click the key in the door lock one last time, flipping the page to “The End.”
Contact Janet Romaker at: email@example.com or 419-724-6006.