By Robert Blood
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Shari Graham, owner of The Purple Cat used books store. Their one-year anniversary celebration, replete with prizes and entertainment, is Feb. 3 and 4 at 3180 Willow Creek Road, 928-776-0116.]
Can you give us a little background about yourself and the story behind The Purple Cat’s name?
I had a tax accounting business in Prescott for 17 years, so this has been a nice departure for me, really, where I get to interact with people. That’s what I enjoy the most. Plus you get to hear good jokes. … The name is because, well, simply put, it makes me smile. When I was getting ready to open the shop, I had about two pages-worth of ideas for names and, honestly, they were all boring. I wanted something memorable and, when I saw the clip art of the cat we use for our logo, the name and that little guy’s face made me smile. That’s it.
Looking back, a year in, what do you wish you would’ve known starting out a used book store?
I wish I would’ve known more about what trends to expect, when are the slows times and busy times, things like that. Summer was a lot slower than I expected, then the fall started out slow then turned out to be very good as we got into November and December. I just didn’t know what kind of flow to expect.
What met your expectations?
The good response we’ve gotten from people. I was hoping it’d be that good, but it’s actually exceeded that. We get compliments daily on how clean and well-stocked the shop is. … There had been a used book shop in the area before — right next to what became our location — for about three years, and I worked there, so I knew there was a need when we started. I knew it could work, so that was one of the reasons I decided to open once the previous owner moved. The north side of Prescott is vibrant and growing, and it needs a good place to get inexpensive books.
What’s been a surprise along the way?
The diversity of customers. I sell a lot more children’s books than I’d expected and, because of that, we’ve expanded that section. They range from $2 to $4. The same thing happened with fantasy and we’ve gotten a lot of young people looking for that. … Far and away, though, my biggest sellers have been paperback mysteries. Plus we’ve sold quite a few Westerns. That’s not a surprise, really. But, a genre that’s done better than I expected is history and military history. People seem to really like reading a lot of nonfiction. There’s also been a lot more interest in newer releases or popular authors, but that’s expected. I have a few diehard romance fans, but they’re responsible for the bulk of the romance sales. We also have more audio books — books on CD — than I thought there’d be. They’ve been a good thing for us.
Where do you get your books?
Pretty much, the main source is my customers. We take in anywhere from 25 to 100 books a day and I give store credit. We’ve very particular about the quality of books we take, though, and as our inventory grows, we’re getting more particular.
What’s the most difficult part of running the business?
Well, the paperwork. I love being in the shop and talking to people and taking care of the books, but there’s a lot of paperwork that goes along with owning a business.
What’s next for The Purple Cat?
Well, we’re having a birthday party for the shop on Feb. 3 and 4. There’ll be balloons with prices inside — coupons for money off. I’m seriously considering confetti; it’s fun and messy. We’ll also have the artists whose work is in the store stop by to talk to people. There’s Brien Hawkes who does pen and ink pieces, Max Harper, a photographer who shoots in black and white, Susan Congdon, who paints oil on canvas, and Marti Huzarski, a photographer who mounts her pieces on metal. … Other than that, I don’t think we’ll be doing too much different from what we’ve been doing to this point.
Find out more about The Purple Cat used book store at ThePurpleCatAZ.Com or via Facebook. Visit them at 3180 Willow Creek Road, 928-776-0116.
Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.