Olympia Books 25 years oldPublished 9:23pm Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Name of business: Olympia Books
Name of owner: Paul Pugh
Address of business: 208 S. Front St.
Telephone number: (269) 783-6031
Hours: Open most days about 10 or 11, sometimes as early as 8 but some days as late as 12 or 1. I close around 4 or 5, occasionally at 2:30 or 3. There are some days I’m not here at all, but lately I’ve been here all the time except when I’m someplace else, but I should be here then, too. It’s best to give me a call.
Date business opened: 1987
What type of business do you operate — what you sell, services provided? I got tired of teaching. This looked like a fun thing to do. I do most business on the internet, but I have to store them somewhere, so why not? Besides, a lot of good things I buy come in the front door. Mine and Casperson in Niles are about the only ones left in southwest Michigan. Every used book seller likes to think of himself as a preserver of culture. Ninety percent of all titles available are used. Only 10 percent are new. Another bookseller saying is, ‘Any book is a new book if you haven’t read it.’ People like to discover someone they haven’t read, like a mystery writer from the ’20s.
Where are you from? Athens, Ohio. I had a place in South Bend for a while, so I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years. I gradually got into used books, then dropped new books altogether.
What sets your business apart from similar ventures? I still order new books for people who can buy at the same price as Barnes and Noble. It takes about a week. I just went to a book sale in Lawrence and got a $70 book for 50 cents.
Why did you choose to open in Dowagiac? I moved up here when I married Karen.
Will you ever write a book of your own (Ralph Casperson’s memoir is in a cart in the aisle)? No, it’s too much like work. I just read Kurt Vonnegut’s last book (a photo of Pugh with Dogwood Fine Arts Festival’s first visiting author hangs in the shop) and I’m halfway through a biography of him. I always admired his fearlessness in saying what he had to say. If I happen to die — I don’t think I will because an exception could be made in my case — I put together a presentation from plays I started and didn’t finish (including the sequel to “Just Like a Movie” and one about Henry Miller and Anais Nin). Beckwith can put it on after I come back from my post-graduate work at U of M (he’s donating his body to medical science).
Who are your customers? I get to know a lot of tourists. Not many local people at all.
Plans for Olympia’s future? I can’t do this forever, so I’m thinking of selling it. There’s an apartment upstairs.