As ABC Used Bookstore closes, owner donates entire business and inventory to WabiSabi
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Nov 14, 2013 | 3233 views | 0 0 comments | 145 145 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Starting Nov.18, with the help of dozens of volunteers, WabiSabi thrift store in Moab will receive its largest-ever material donation, according to Mel Gilles, WabiSabi’s executive director.

ABC and Beyond Used Bookstore is donating approximately 12,000 books to WabiSabi, after bookstore owner Andy Nettell decided to close ABC’s doors due to a drop in sales.

And Gilles says the donation goes beyond just the books.

“Andy [Nettell] approached me a couple of months ago with this crazy, hair-brained scheme,” she said. “The gist of it was that he wanted to transfer ABC Books to WabiSabi.”

Nettell, who also owns Back of Beyond Books, said ABC’s revenue had been decreasing for the last 18 months and finally reached a point where the store was losing money.

“It kind of broke my heart that I wasn’t able to continue that kind of bookstore in town anymore,” Nettell said.

He said he sat down with staff to decide the next logical step.

“The obvious move would have been to sell the store,” Nettell said. But he was hesitant to sell because he didn’t want to set up competition for Back of Beyond.

“When the idea of donating the business to WabiSabi came up, it was like a light bulb moment,” he said.

Gilles said the plan was surprising on a number of levels.

“I’ve never heard of a gift like this, and I’ve worked for nonprofits across the country,” she said. “It took about a week to wrap my head around it.”

Gilles said the WabiSabi Thriftique will be transformed to enable the back room to hold all the books, and the business will continue to operate from the Thriftique.

“As a nonprofit they have a different business model which should allow them to make a profit,” Nettell said.

Customers will also see other changes, Gilles said.

“We won’t be able to do trades,” she said. “As a nonprofit, we can’t receive donations that people get paid back for.”

She added that being a nonprofit will allow WabiSabi to sell the books at a lower price.

“It’s just a win-win,” Nettell said. “The store will continue within WabiSabi, and inexpensive books will continue to be available for the community.”

The change is bittersweet for Nettell. A few years ago, he was forced to combine Arches Book Company with Back of Beyond.

“It’s all part of a process due to declining book sales,” he said.

He’s also upset that he must lay off some of the employees from ABC books.

“I’m just trying to make the best out of a situation that’s deteriorating,” he said, adding that he’s hopeful that Back of Beyond will continue to be a stable operation. “I have to be realistic. Times are changing.”

Gilles described the transfer as an innovative way to keep used books flowing through Moab.

“Andy is really passionate about recycling and redistributing,” she said. “He’s also very passionate about books ... Dedicating your life to books is an amazing thing.”

Gilles said the donation will reach far beyond just the delivery of the books – it will increase Wabi-Sabi’s revenue each year.

“He’s giving us a gift that’s not just a one-time donation,” she said. “It will continue to grow, and we’ll see the proceeds.”

WabiSabi is in need of approximately 50 volunteers to help with boxing and delivering the books to the Thriftique. Volunteers are also needed to help organize the books. “We’re trying to preserve the integrity of what [Andy’s] got going over there,” Gilles said.

WabiSabi will also restructure and rename both of its stores, Gilles said. The Thriftique will become Wabi-East, and will carry all the clothing, books and gear donated to the organization. The WabiSabi Warehouse will be renamed Wabi-South, and will be more of a home store.

Gilles said both stores will be closed the first week in January to complete the transition.

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