Local bookstore owner finding life after layoff just fine

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 29, 2001

A layoff led Charles Hall into a new career – from life in the corporate world to owner of his own retail business.

The transition is filled with ironies; and the new life suits him well.

&uot;It is really strange how you can lose your job and then an opportunity like this turns up,&uot; said Hall, owner of Cover to Cover Books on Washington Street.

One irony is that his family for years teased that he should one day own a book store because of his love of books.

&uot;I’ve always loved books and loved to read, and, even though I’m surrounded by them now, I still love to read,&uot; he said.

In April 1999, when he found himself unemployed after 30 years in the oil business, he stopped to ponder his options.

The last 18 years of his career were with Callon Petroleum, where he was manager of land and oil and gas marketing.

He knew his skills were marketable as a consultant, but he questioned whether the travel required in that kind of work would suit him.

&uot;In the oil business, there always had been a stress level and a lot of travel. I had to think about that,&uot; he said.

Almost immediately after his layoff, he learned of the availability of the bookstore. Within two months he had purchased it with his wife, Rosemary, a vice president at Britton & Koontz First National Bank.

&uot;Rosemary loves her job, and we love Natchez. It has become our home. We own property. We wanted to stay here. The bookstore was a good opportunity to help us do that.&uot;

Hall admits there were scary moments as he made adjustments to the new work. &uot;Going from the corporate structure into a position where you are truly master of your fate and responsible for the payroll, well, that’s an experience.&uot;

He coped, however, putting his own stamp on the business, which was eight years old when he purchased it.

Using his skills in computers, he began right away to spend much of his time building Web sites and connecting with networks that would give Cover to Cover broader Web coverage among people looking for special books.

&uot;The online effort has taken a lot of time, but I’m beginning to see the benefits,&uot; he said.

He has created a new kind of market for Cover to Cover by amassing a collection of used and out-of-print books to market online.

&uot;I’ve gotten about 7,000 in that collection upstairs now,&uot; he said. &uot;That is going real well; there are lots of people out there looking for out-of-print books.&uot;

Hall said that small independent book dealers have to scramble in today’s market, and that fact indeed has inspired him to be creative.

&uot;I’ve started getting international orders for books. I never would have imagined that would happen. I’ve gotten orders from Switzerland, Brazil, Canada. I’ve had to learn how to fill out customs forms for the packages.&uot;

Hall said people who are facing layoffs may have to get creative to find jobs that allow them to remain in Natchez. &uot;We’re a small, somewhat isolated town. You have to look out to the world and ask what you might provide to make a decent living for your family.&uot;