For Joseph Wang and Marty Wilson, it all started with trying to find ways to fill a vacancy in a Holts Summit strip mall.
From there, the idea of Retold Tales was born. The duo started the used bookstore to bankroll the buildout of a vacancy in Wang’s strip mall for the Daniel Boone Regional Library to set up shop in Holts Summit.
Just before the bookstore opened in 2018, Wilson received word Barnes & Noble was closing its bookstore in Jefferson City. He saw on a Facebook that someone from the store was looking for a new job. He knew it was a good opportunity to get some used shelves and other items for the bookstore from the Jefferson City store.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to run down there tomorrow,’” Wilson said.
Wilson developed a relationship with the employees at the Barnes & Noble, who would later get approval from corporate to donate the entire store — minus books — to him.
But there was one problem: He had a week to get everything out.
“(T)hey were bringing in a wrecking crew behind us,” he said. “Whatever we don’t want, they’re taking out and getting rid of it.”
He and his helpers were able to move everything out in 10 days, working with the demolition crew to save certain items.
For books, Wilson said he secured donations from the community and local libraries. He ended up with around 4,000 cases of books. Additional shelving units and books came from Village Books in Columbia, with even more books pouring in from the former owner of Fulton’s Well Read books, Wang said.
After the bookstore opened, it was a hit. But the inconsistency of its operating hours due to its reliance on its volunteer staff limited the store’s ability to reach out to surrounding communities.
Wang’s solution was to spin off Retold Tales independent of the Holts Summit Community Empowerment Foundation, which was the nonprofit that owned the bookstore. In January, the two closed the bookstore and the transformation began.
“(W)e bought the books from HSCEF and paid (them) for its time and effort in organizing the books,” Wang said.
The new Retold Tales continues to assist HSCEF on paying back its loans, in exchange for maintaining relationships with book donors. Retold Tales is able to pay their own overhead and employees.
The transformation also included moving into a new space.
“The space is different,” Wang said. “The space is more inviting than it was in the previous location. And as you walk from room to room, each area seems to open up like layers of an onion. … Each area opens up into a different area, and that makes for a more exciting place to browse.”
Retold Tales also carries used DVDs, VHS tapes and vinyl records. The store also has a section dedicated to large print books for the visually impaired.
Wang said Retold Tales has collaborated with other similar small businesses. He said they worked with In The Groove, of Jefferson City, for vinyl records. He said they also maintained their relationship with Well Read books in Fulton, and the two discuss trade, surplus and duplicate books to improve inventory at both businesses.
Jamie Rector, owner of In The Groove, said the collaboration was developed to promote each other.
“We’re just getting the word out to locals and people in the area that there are other options and businesses that are kind of alike,” Rector said.
For Wang and David Ellis, manager for Retold Tales, the goal is to keep used media businesses going.
Throughout the ownership of the store, Wang said he learned a valuable lesson.
“As in many things in life, and especially to books: what is junk to one person can be a treasure to another,” he said in an email. “What makes a used bookstore a special place is the ability to find esoteric books that (are) hard to find elsewhere, the ability for you to stumble across a special book that you may not even know you wanted until you run across it.”
Retold Tales is open 4-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday. They’re located in Summit Plaza and are accepting donations at the store during business hours.