The Courier spoke with co-owner Tracie Harris at the store last week.
Harris said the store was founded in the late 1970s.
“My Mom was shopping here pretty much as soon as it opened. She was dating my dad who lived in Mableton at the time. So once they had me, and my grandparents still lived over here, we shopped here my whole life. I can remember my grandmother buying me Little House on the Prairie books when it was just this tiny little bookstore hidden behind Krystals.”
She said her mother worked in a family business until it closed down. Harris herself was a teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools, and later an administrator for an independent school.
“But we were both kind of looking for something,” she said. “I was ready for a career change, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had gone back to grad school, and thought I wanted to work more in non-profits.”
She said that the turning point came when her mother fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck in December of 2017.
“As it happened, it coincided with my school being off for two weeks, so I could help take care of her,” she said. “And one day I went to get her a book. I went to the Book House, and the lady told me that they were going out of business. I love bookstores in general. I was very attached to this one in particular. And I thought it was so good for Mableton to still have a book store.”
She said, “So when I took the book to my mom we were talking about it, and she’s like “We would be really good with a book store,” and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s hilarious.'”
But in thinking it over, she decided her mother and she would be good at running a bookstore.
“We are both the kind of people to take six weeks to make a decision. Usually we’re sort of plodding and careful. We made this one in about two and a half hours. My husband says I went to lunch and came back with a bookstore,” she said.
She and her mother cashed out their retirement accounts, and the first challenge was finding a new location and moving the books, because the existing store on Veterans Memorial Highway was going to be torn down.
“We didn’t want to move it out of Mableton,” she said. “We looked in Lithia Springs, we looked in a few different other places but we thought that the community aspect was so important.”
She said the challenge was finding a place large enough to house the bookstore but still affordable.
“So we got very fortunate,” she said. “And I guess being from here helped us, because Mr. Ray Barnes down at the hardware store had known my paternal grandparents, and his wife had know my maternal grandparents, so they were very friendly, and they helped us get into this building.”
“So then we had four weeks to renovate this building and move 120,000 books. And I’d like to point out my mom still had a broken neck and about 17 other broken bones,” she said.
She said during the move, in January of 2018, she was constantly cold, dirty and miserable.
“I thought this was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” she said.
“So it took us roughly about eight weeks to completely move the store,” she said. “It was very much a community outpouring of support, too. People that I never knew would come up and just start packing boxes. Longtime customers of the store, this one lady in particular, Jenny Ferguson, must have packed a thousand boxes. They were so happy that the store was going to stay in Mableton. So we so appreciated that. We had not counted on that.”
She said their goal was to retain as much of what people loved about the Book House as possible.
“Romance has a really bad rap, but it is about a third of our sales. They are very dedicated customers and readers, and there’s a lot of great books in this room,” she said.
“But we do get flak, where people are ‘Oh, you’re a romance store.’ We are. But we’re a lot of other things. We have eight rooms, every room has a theme, and we try to keep our books really well-organized and granular so people can find them. We got a new website, we sell online, and we introduced a social media strategy which has been really helpful in reaching out to new people.”
She said the store came with two existing romance book clubs, and they’ve added book clubs for teens and true crime fans.
“People really wanted a true crime book club, and the book lover’s book club, which has been super successful,” she said.
“And we also say that our TED Talk is going to be if you really want a great relationship with your mother or your daughter once you’re both adults, you should open a bookstore together. It’s been absolutely fantastic,” she said. “We never realized how much alike we are, but there will be times when we don’t even have to speak and we know how the other is going to work around a business problem.”
“So it’s been great. I’ve never worked harder or been poorer, or more tired. But I’ve never enjoyed my life more either,” she said.
Asked about the different rooms and sections in the store, she said, “We have a huge romance section. We’ve been trying to really expand it into more diverse selections … For example, our two best-selling romance novels last year were The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. Helen Hoang is a lady of part Asian ancestry who also happens to be autistic. The other bestselling romance book was The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory, and Jasmine is biracial.”
“We have a sci-fi and a horror room that we’re very proud of,” she said, “because we try to keep everything from the newest books to old classics … We have a large African-American authors section, a large Southern writers section, a big kid’s room, and large young adult section, fiction, comics, manga, which I did not know about, and the kids have introduced me to. Non-fiction, religious books, history, which are my favorites. And then we have a big mystery and thriller section including a dedicated “cozy” mystery section … and a big western section which is very popular with some of our older gentleman clients.”
The Book House is located at 5450 Old Floyd Road, Mableton, 30126. The hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information visit their Facebook page.