• Dog Eared Books continues tradition of recycled reading

  • Tina Smith and Connie Payne started out as two women who shopped at an independent used bookstore, only later to become two of the store’s longtime employees.

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  • Tina Smith and Connie Payne started out as two women who shopped at an independent used bookstore, only later to become two of the store’s longtime employees.
    Twenty years ago, Smith was a stay-at-home wife and mother who shopped at the used bookstore. Now, she’s its co-owner and manager – and the reasons Smith has stayed as long as she has are plentiful.
    “I’ve always liked to shop indie,” she says, “and the people who worked here were just great. And, you know, it’s good to be able to recycle your books.”
    Payne, a customer since 1984, visited the shop frequently when Smith worked. The two women shared conversations, and one day, Payne casually mentioned, “If you ever need any help, let me know.”
    Smith asked Payne, then an employee at the Blue Springs School District cafeteria, to start work the following day. That was more than 10 years ago.
    Payne summarizes her love of Dog Eared Books in three categories – her co-workers, the customers and the atmosphere.
    “You can talk endlessly about books and authors,” she says. “You’re always hearing other customers give each other new authors to try. You kind of eavesdrop on that and find new authors yourself to try.”
    The business started about 40 years ago, first known as Rainy Day Books, then Fireside Books, and finally Dog Eared Books for the last decade. The store also has changed locations several times along Noland Road, but it’s been at 3625 S. Noland Road for 20 years.
    But some residents still aren’t aware of the bookstore’s presence in Independence, and management wants to change that. Many coats of fresh paint and organizing of shelves took place in advance for Dog Eared Books’ grand reopening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Events include special sales, neck massages, free refreshments, book signings and giveaways.
    The bookstore also is expanding its offerings to custom window glazing, smaller furniture items and e-readers. Self-help seminars on subjects like diet and nutrition soon will take place as a means of reaching the community even further.
    And don’t be surprised to find feline friends inside. Three rescue cats – Stuart “Stuie” Woods, Harlee Quinn and Charlotte Bronte, call Dog Eared Books their home.
    Jo Hodges of Blue Springs calls herself a dog person, but she says she also loves the three Dog Eared Books cats. Hodges has shopped at Dog Eared Books for about five years and says she enjoys romance books with stories that allow to escape from everyday problems.
    Customer service, Hodges says, is what keeps her coming back.
    “You don’t find customer service much anymore,” she says. “It’s personalized because they know their customers.”
    From the Internet to readers’ personal tastes, the book industry has evolved significantly since Smith started with Dog Eared Books, she says. For awhile, children’s book sales slowed significantly, Smith says – and then J.K. Rowling’s popular “Harry Potter” series hit the shelves.
    Page 2 of 2 - As the popularity of e-readers and online shopping continue, “It’s a really scary time for indie bookstores – or any bookstores, really,” Smith says. “Until about a year ago, we had not noticed a big change in our sales, and then it took a pretty big dip there for awhile, when e-books became so popular. It’s kind of leveled out.”
    But the loyal and dedicated customers remain. Smith says she receives a handful of birthday cards yearly, and one customer even brings in presents every holiday for Smith’s 4-year-old granddaughter who has leukemia, whom many customers refer to as “our girl.”
    “I just love it here,” Smith says. “I used to work in a lab, and it was always so dark – you’d go in the morning and it was dark, and you’d get off and it was dark. There were no windows.
    “But here... I just love it. And, I’m surrounded by my favorite thing.”

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