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October 27, 2013

Used bookstore keeps literature alive in Merced

Nancy Smith, 64, bought Second Time Around Used Books in 2010 after longtime owner Jim Barnett passed away. Running a used bookstore in Merced can be difficult, especially since the advent of electronic and online books.

There’s a running debate at Second Time Around Used Books in Merced.

Employee Alissa Haynes says Cormac McCarthy’s novel, “The Road,” is a masterpiece. Store owner Nancy Smith thinks the post-apocalyptic story is simply depressing.

“Oh, I just hate that book” Smith said. “Alissa likes depressing stuff, I don’t.”

However, the pair behind Merced’s only commercial used bookstore agree on most things and share a passion for almost everything in paperback, even if they don’t like all the stories.

Smith, 64, bought the bookstore in 2010 after longtime owner Jim Barnett died, but store owner is actually Smith’s second job. She has worked as an auditor for the past 24 years with the state Board of Equalization.

Haynes, 25, is the store’s only full-time employee and has been with Smith almost since the beginning. She runs most of the day-to-day operations.

Both acknowledged that running a used bookstore in Merced can be difficult, especially since the advent of electronic and online books. The 2008 recession didn’t help much, either. “There are a lot of times when it’s been kind of depressing in here,” Haynes said. “Sometimes you look around and there’s no one here and you wonder if there’s going to be enough (profit) to pay PG&E.”

Smith said that staying organized, following a strict business plan and working to maintain a positive attitude helps get them through tough times. “You’ve got to be incredibly persistent and organized,” Smith said. “So many businesses start out on Main Street and they go out of business in less an a year.”

Smith credits much of the store’s success to Haynes’ “upfront personality” and her own philosophy and dedication to customer service.

For longtime customers such as Peg Darby of Merced, Smith’s used bookstore is the best place to get mystery stories. “I just refuse to pay $27 for one book, and they have really good deals here,” Darby said.

Smith said she may expand her operation and include new books, but only if Barnes & Noble closes over the winter as planned. “Otherwise, I like what we have going here. It’s a good, quaint place,” Smith said.

Haynes hopes more people will check out the store and maybe even join the great book debate. “I really do love this bookstore,” she said, “and I think most people that come in here end up loving it, too.”

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