Blue Jacket Books in transition after years of low profit

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Blue Jacket Books in transition after years of low profit

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Richard Wilson
Lawrence Hammar and Cassandra Lee at their bookstore, Blue Jacket Books, in Xenia.

It’s been tough to turn a profit selling books in Xenia, but Lawrence Hammar isn’t giving up yet.

The owner of Blue Jacket Books, at 30 S. Detroit St., has decided to cut his robust, eclectic collection of modern, dated and everything in-between hardbacks and paperbacks down to four genres — Civil War, Americana, academic works and fine art.

Hammar said he’s also going to focus more on what is working - Online sales and direct orders.

“This town, unfortunately, will not support a bookstore,” he said. “We don’t want to give up. We just have to adapt.”

Adapting means selling off at huge discounts about 30,000 of the roughly 50,000 books in the store.

The sale is happening one section at a time, with pristine hardbacks being sold at half-price to 80 percent off. Mobile carts filled with $1 reads are being parked on the sidewalk in front of the store.

Hammar said what doesn’t sell will eventually be donated.

He anticipates giving a lot of books away. Consider that on a recent Saturday with a sale of 80 percent off, Hammar said the total sales at the end of the day amounted to $47 and some change.

“We cannot make a living selling books in an in-store fashion,” he said. “The in-store sales are so poor, even when we’re having a spectacular sale, we can’t make it financially having the kind of bookstore that we have now.”

Bookstores seem to be rare commodities in communities these days as small independent stores and large chain booksellers like Borders have faltered “under the weight of online retailers, e-books, and electronic forms of entertainment,” according to Open Education Database, a collection of college rankings and free online coursework.

Blue Jacket has been a bookstore for 10 years and at its current location since 2013. In the past it has served as a community theater group. Hammar said it continues to be a hub of activity.

Hammar’s wife, Cassandra Lee, operates the popular Tables of Contents Cafe in the store. The two businesses are active on Facebook, with daily posts of menu items on the cafe’s page and the latest sale or rare find on the shelves on the bookstore page.

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