AfterWords Books in downtown Edwardsville has some seriously loyal customers, but owner Luann Locke said she unfortunately doesn’t see much business from college students.
“I don’t think there’s enough of a draw for students to come downtown,” Locke said. “I’m hoping, with new restaurants opening up, that it will get more people to explore downtown.”
Locke said there is also a misconception that she thinks keeps students and other potential customers at bay.
“I think there used to be a religious bookstore on Main Street, so people assume we are a religious bookstore and we are not,” Locke said. “We do have some religious books, but that’s not all we do, and I think some people are like, ‘That’s not my thing,’ so they don’t even come in.”
According to Locke, students get a 10 percent discount at AfterWords, and she has hosted events in the past to encourage students to check out the bookstore.
“We had professor Jeff Schmidt come when his book came out,” Locke said. “He did a signing. I know his books are available at the campus bookstore, but they’re also available here. We’d like to do more of that. The store’s so small; it’s kind of hard to really host anything huge. From time to time, we do get local authors.”
Locke said there’s something for almost everyone to purchase at AfterWords, unless you are interested in the three genres that don’t interest her.
“The only things we don’t carry are textbooks, self-help and romance,” Locke said. “I always make a joke about that because I’m like, ‘I don’t need any of those things in my life, so I’m not going to have them in my bookstore either.’”
Romance novels, such as the ones written by Danielle Steel, are available in the ‘free bin’ at AfterWords, according to Locke. The bookstore gives away 100 free books per week, and that’s not the only deal customers can find.
“All of our paperbacks are 50 percent off of what they were new, and the hardcovers are 60 percent off,” Locke said. “We also have a cart that’s always full, and it’s 25 cent paperbacks and 50 cent hardcovers. We have an entire bookshelf that’s 50 percent off our prices. You basically end up getting a $20 or $30 book for $5 or less.”
Locke said most of AfterWords’ business comes from the used books that people donate, so she offers them a trade for credit deal, which gives them 20 percent of the original price of the book in store credit to be used towards other used books.
“I also work at the Glen Carbon Library, and every time someone comes in there and donates their books, it’s... painful for me because I can’t say anything, but I’m just like, ‘You could be getting store credit! Don’t just give your books away,’” Locke said.
Donna Potter, of Edwardsville, who has been a customer since the store’s opening in 2009, said every time she cleans out her bookshelves she comes to AfterWords.
“I want them to do really well because I think it’s really cool to have a used bookstore in your downtown,” Potter said. “That just adds to the charm. I like seeing my books. I like to know that it’s helping out small businesses.”
Besides just supporting AfterWords, Potter said she continues to come back regularly because of the relaxed atmosphere.
“You feel like you’re at home and you feel like, when they give you recommendations, that they actually read the books,” Potter said. “They’re really good at giving recommendations on kids’ books.”
Locke said since she took over as owner of the bookstore last June, she has made connections with the regular customers and knows them on a first name basis at this point.
“We’re like family,” Locke said. “We know what they like to read. If they’re looking for something in particular, we’ll write that down, we’ll take their number and we’ll call them up. On Fridays we have treat day. We always have something that we bake on Fridays. I’m pretty sure Books-A-Million doesn’t do that.”
Adding to the cozy and intimate feel of AfterWords is bookstore cat, “Truman Catpote,” who has stood his post as door greeter for about two and a half years. He has seen two owners, including Rebecca Shelton, run the bookstore. Potter said she remembers when the store opened.
“I was starting a business at the same time,” Potter said. “I was just proud of [Shelton], and I wanted to see what she did with the space and with the concept. I thought it was very gutsy of her to start a small business when the economy was so bad.”
According to Potter, Shelton opened the bookstore for her daughter, which is why it was, and remains, family-friendly at AfterWords.
“It was a very good transition from the first owner to Luann because they’re both just really sweet people and you do feel like you going into their living room,” Potter said.
Gabby Lane, of Edwardsville, occasionally volunteers her time at AfterWords. She said one of her favorite memories at the bookstore was when she helped out during the reopening.
“Seeing everybody come in and appreciating the hard work that we put into it, the book sculptures and everything, that was my favorite part, making those,” Lane said.
To learn more about AfterWords Books, visit afterwordsbookstore.com.