Barlow creates inviting place for book shopping

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

Aptly named, Michelle Barlow’s business, My Book House, invites customers to come in and make themselves at home.

Piled high with used books &045; most on shelves but many in stacks, on tables and in baskets and other interesting containers &045; the space inside the salmon-colored concrete block building at 388 Liberty Road is divided into cozy nooks decorated with furnishings from just about everywhere, Barlow said, giving a tour of the store earlier this week.

&uot;I love to decorate,&uot; Barlow said. &uot;People bring me little things and I try to use them.&uot; That includes quilts, crocheted doilies, vintage clothes, old prints and photographs, stuffed animals, children’s costumes and just about every kind of bric-a-brac found at well-stocked flea markets.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;I found this swing on the side of the road,&uot; she said, pointing to a wooden porch swing hanging nearby. &uot;And people leave things at my front door for me to use. Someone just left these old valentines.&uot;

About five years ago, Barlow began to pursue her dream of owning a book store, starting in a small one-room building in another location.

&uot;I built up a following, and they came with me when I moved here,&uot; she said. &uot;I love books. And it was my dream to do this.&uot;

With the help of her husband, Ricky, she turned a plain space into a colorful arcade, where perhaps 10,000 used books, paperback and hardback, are divided into sections such as mystery, history, science fiction, western, romance, biography, cook books, children’s books and more.

Paperbacks are half the publisher’s price; hardbacks sell for anywhere between $1 and $20, and her collection includes some recent best sellers and very old books.

&uot;I started out by going to yard sales and cleaning out attics and garages when people would call me,&uot; she said. &uot;After a year, I had enough books to open the store.&uot;

Her quirky decorations have caught the admiring attention of her customers, who like to buy objects along with the books. Everything is for sale, she said.

If someone asked to buy the cotton-boll wreath hanging over there? &uot;I’d say, ‘give me three bucks,’&uot; she said without hesitation.

She likes her progress as a business woman and believes she can call her store a success. But she has more to do &045; more books and more new ideas, she said.

&uot;People like my decorations. This has been a good supplement to the books,&uot; she said. &uot;People feel at home here. They bring their lunch and sit here and read. They think of it as a haven.&uot;

Her customers are urging her to serve coffee and pastries. That may be one of the next new ventures, she said.

&uot;It has been a labor of love, and it has been fun,&uot; she said. &uot;My home people keep me in business, but I also get tourists from all over. It’s a good location, a central location but a little off the beaten path.&uot;