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-  Book Warehouse reopens in Troutdale after an eight-year absence

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: ANNE ENDICOTT - Jodi Fulmer, manager for the Troutdale Book Warehouse, says there is still a place for book stores in the community and a book for every personality. The Tennessee-based company underwent some financial reorganization and has reopened 23 stores nationwide, two in Oregon.

Those of us who prefer the feel of a real book in our hands have reason to get excited these days.

There’s a book store in town again!

“We all miss having book stores in the community,” said Jodi Fulmer, manager of Book Warehouse in the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets mall in Troutdale. “The demise of big box book stores is making way for stores like us. I believe there will always be a place for books in our culture because there really is a multi-sensory experience to reading a tangible book.”

It may appear that honest-to-God, made-from-paper books have gone the way of the dinosaurs, given the popularity of e-readers. But if foot traffic in the recently opened storefront is any indication, the dinosaurs have re-emerged to load up on old fashioned reading material.

Readers may remember Book Warehouse as a former mainstay in the outlet mall in the early 2000s. The Tennessee-based company closed several stores, including the Troutdale location in 2006, after failing to survive in the shadow of big box stores such as Borders and Barnes & Noble. The company underwent some financial reorganization and has since launched 23 new stores nationwide. The Troutdale store is the second to reopen in Oregon, with others planned over the summer.

If news of a local book store is a threat to a tight budget, take heart. Book Warehouse is a discount retailer offering titles at 50-80 percent off the publisher’s retail price. The company maintains an exclusive contract with publishers to acquire warehouses of excess inventory, ranging from nonfiction and literature to young readers and self-improvement.

“We don’t get the brand new releases because there is an initial marketing period at retail prices,” Fulmer said. “About three to six months after publication, we have the ability to start acquiring titles based on availability.”

What sets Book Warehouse apart is the company’s policy to let individual stores order inventory based on customer preferences. Approximately two-thirds of the store’s titles are aimed at the location’s demographic, while the rest is geared toward a broader interest to attract other readers.

Kevinn Fung, the store’s assistant manager, is a former employee and manager with Borders Book and Music. He spent years working in Borders’ “flagship” stores, where sales volume was a high priority. Smaller operations like Book Warehouse, Fung said, use their employees’ knowledge with a customer-driven approach.

“All of us here have our own level of expertise, but the mom and pop feel here allows us to get a lot more personal with our customers and what they’re looking for,” Fung said. “For me, this is heaven. I get to meet the most interesting people and look at books all day.”

Serving the community extends beyond supplying reading material to customers, however. The company strives to generate a love of the printed word among young readers with monthly book drives for daycare centers and schools, and supports local authors by opening its doors for book signings. Summer Story Time, which starts Sunday, June 22, is open to all ages and includes goodie bags to children under 12.

“We want to show we’re a community book store,” Fulmer said. “We want people to come in, get to know us and pick up a book for less than the cost of lunch. That’s the way we’ve always propelled ourselves. We believe there is a book out there for every personality.”

Book Warehouse

Where: 450 N.W. 257th Ave., Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets mall, Troutdale.

Activities: Manager Jodi Fulmer encourages schools, libraries and churches to contact her for information about the store’s monthly book drives. Summer Story Time is held from 2-3 p.m. the third Sunday of every month beginning Sunday, June 22.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Contact: Call 503-667-4837 or visit the store’s Facebook page at PortlandBookWarehouse.

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