Bozeman's only used bookstore looking for new owner

BOZEMAN - Bozeman’s only used bookstore is looking for a new owner.

They started with only a few books, but now they have nearly 32,000. Sandy Feeney and Pam Harwell, business partners turned best friends, have owned the Used Book Emporium for nearly five years. After the previous used bookstore was closed, the two – at the time, no more than coworkers at a local big box store – saw a need in the community.

“I said, ‘You know, we should have bought that bookstore,’” now-co-owner Harwell recalls telling Feeney while they were at work one day.

Discovering their mutual love for reading brought the two together. They started with nothing, “probably not even any good sense,” according to Harwell. Still only barely knowing one another, the pair took a road trip to a book sale in rural Utah, cementing their friendship and supplying their first collection of books.

But Feeney and Harwell’s dream was questioned by some people around them.

“’Why are you doing a used bookstore? Books aren’t in anymore,’” Feeney, a retired school librarian, recalls people telling them. “I don’t believe any of that is true. Books are not going away. I thoroughly believe that books are here to stay.”

Gathering books, building bookshelves, and learning the ins-and-outs of the business became the new normal for Feeney and Harwell. Their business model grew as they started a book-buying program for customers who were getting rid of old books. Those who sold their books were given redeemable in-store credits, which started a cycle of regulars into the Used Book Emporium. Regulars that now turn up on their days off, just to spend time helping out around the store or chatting with Feeney, Harwell, or their shared 11-year-old cat Meesha.

Now, after curating a business that’s been embraced by the Bozeman community, they’re turning the page.

“It’s time,” Feeney admits. “We’re old and we’ve had a lot of fun.”

The book emporium is for sale after a recent move a mile down Huffine due to rising rental prices.

If selling used books isn’t enough to sell people on the store, Sandy and Pam say the bonds you can build over business are priceless.

“I don’t think I have ever laughed as much as I have in the last four-and-a-half-plus years,” Feeney says over laughter. “We have a good belly laugh at least once a day.”

Their two requirements for the new owners?

"They have to enjoy books and people," says Feeney. "A bookstore is a people business."

Knowledge of authors and books will help the new owner to assist customers, and continuing the book-buying credit program is "key," both women agree, since customers enjoy and depend on the credits.

Anyone interested in learning more about ownership of the Used Book Emporium can stop into their new location at 8942 Huffine Lane (in the barn with the large paintbrush on the front) or email Sandy and Pam at usedbookemporium@gmail.com.

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