Bill Jones, owner of Browse Awhile Books, stands outside his shop in Tipp City.

Small Tipp City book store overcomes odds, thriving

Bill Jones’ small book store has survived the explosive growth of Amazon.com, one of the worst economic downturns in American history during the Great Recession and now has stared down the coronavirus pandemic that has crushed many businesses.

Jones opened Browse Awhile Books on Tipp City’s Main Street in 1990 and because of recent online sales is thriving.

“It’s fun,” Jones said. “When you’re in the book business, every day is Christmas because you don’t know what you’re going to find.”

Independent book stores became a dying breed in the 1990s with the start of Amazon.com. In 2019, there were 2,524 independent bookstores in the United States, according to Statista.

It took only took five years, from 1995 to 2000, for the number of independent bookstores to fall by 43% after the launch of Amazon.com, according to a study by the Harvard Business School.

However, starting in 2007, indie bookstores have seen a resurgence in popularity, as localism has become a strong competitor for big chain book sellers.

Jones was inspired to open his own store after the owner of a used bookstore he frequented in Sidney closed shop.

Browse Awhile Books sells and buys out-of-print, used and rare books. The two-story shop at 118 East Main St., Tipp City, is home to more than 100,000 books and has an online inventory with around 45,000 books.

Jones said the store went online 30 years ago, and traditionally makes up half of its business through online sales.

After closing for the pandemic, Jones says that proportion of the business has increased.

“I think a lot of people have permanently discovered the (online inventory),” Jones said, “which is good with all the obstacles being placed in front of conventional brick and mortar stores.”

Like many small businesses, the pandemic is an uncertain time for locally independent stores.

Jones said he closed the store just before Gov. Mike DeWine mandated the closings in March and reopened with other retail stores on May 12.

“My thought (process) was if we can do enough online business to cover payroll, then I’m happy,” Jones said. “As it turned out, the (online) business increased, so we were okay.”

Jones says he loves the Tipp City area.

“Tipp City is a neat little town,” Jones said. “You do find some pretty nice little towns scattered around, but I haven’t found any I care for as much as Tipp.”

Kim Bulgin, executive director of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership, said the business is a great team player in the city.

“It’s a great addition to our downtown,” Bulgin said. “I can always count on them to pitch in and help.”

Jones said running his store is very gratifying.

“It’s all the people,” Jones said. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s all the people.”

When buying local goods, 52% of money spent goes back into the community, whereas only 13% would stay in the community if goods were bought through a national chain, according to IndieBound.

Browse Awhile Books is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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