New used bookstore offers ‘big box’ choicesWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The recently opened Ukazoo Books offers customers a big-box atmosphere without the steep prices, store employees say.
“It’s a mesh between your used bookstore and your big box store. We’ve got the pricing of used, but we look like a big box store,” said General Manager Edward Whitfill.
The used bookstore chain was started by brothers Jack and Seth Revelle. The Revelles began buying and selling used books online before starting their first retail location in Towson, Md., Whitfill said. Ukazoo now has four locations and is looking to open another later this year. The other locations are in Southgate, Mich., and Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
The Revelles chose their Toledo location, 830 N. Westwood Road, partially because they own PRO Quo Books, another bookselling business, in the back of the building. Borders’ closing also led the brothers to give Toledo another large bookstore, Whitfill said.
Pat Borden, a former Borders employee, will manage the Toledo store. He doesn’t foresee Ukazoo going the way of Borders.
“There was a company that was in love with books, but they weren’t in love with selling,” Borden said, adding that Ukazoo is in love with both.
At 13,000 square feet, Ukazoo is a little smaller than Borders, but offers customers some new options like selling back their books. Ukazoo employees cross-check the books with a software system to determine how much patrons receive for them, Whitfill said. Ukazoo, which created 16 new jobs in Toledo, relies heavily on its software and may be looking for a software engineer in the future, he added.
“That’s one of the best parts of my job; there’s nothing like creating jobs,” Whitfill said.
Whitfill is also responsible for selecting the new books sold at Ukazoo. He favors regional best-sellers and checks out independent bookstores to see their selection, he said.
He makes sure he is very careful in choosing new books.
“We can’t afford to put the wrong book on the shelf,” he said.
For the most part, however, Ukazoo stocks used books, mostly priced below $6, Whitfill said.
The store also has a buy three, get one free promotion.
Wi-Fi and free coffee are some of the other perks offered. Kids can check out the large children’s section complete with a tunnel, birdhouses and a tree built by employees.
“You see the look on the kids’ faces and they’re just mesmerized,” Borden said.
Feedback from adult customers has also been great so far and many people have come back with friends, Borden and Whitfill said.
Part of what customers like is that Ukazoo doesn’t fit the stereotype of a typical used bookstore.
“It doesn’t smell like a used bookstore,” Whitfill joked.
“If you didn’t know it was a used bookstore, you’d think it was brand new,” Borden said.
People do bring in books that are too damaged or may not be sellable. In those cases, Ukazoo recycles the books.
The Toledo location plans to give back in another way by working with Reach Out and Read of Northwest Ohio, a children’s literacy program of the University of Toledo Department of Pediatrics.
Despite the rising popularity of digital readers like Kindles and NOOKs, Borden and Whitfill aren’t worried about business.
Borden said physical books will always have a place in society.
“What do you do at the beach? Do you really sit in the sand with [a digital reader]? Do you take it by the pool?” he asked.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.