Indy's oldest used bookstore is adjacent to Garfield Park
Boasting more than 14,000 books and an assortment of movies, compact discs and knicknacks, Books Unlimited Indy offers a welcoming environment to anyone wanting to browse in search of a good read.
“People say they can’t believe how many books I have, but I tell them that I just have a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the books out there,” said owner Mike Stafford, who has operated the business at 2629 Shelby St. (634-0949) for four years since relocating from Shelby Street and Southeastern Avenue.
Stafford has been in the business 40 years, but not always full time. He operated a scanner for Image Technology Corp. and said he is “pretty good on a forklift. My dad, Jim Ware, got me started in the book business. He helps out around here on Mondays.”
Customers are always asking him where he gets his books from. “I just tell them everywhere.”
Pointing to a book titled “The Walking Dead,” Stafford jokingly – yet with a serious tone – says, “That’s not about zombies; it’s about small-bookstore owners. We are a dying breed, but I am seeing an uptick in business. I am not greedy; I just don’t want to fail. I want to make enough to pay the bills and a have little for myself. Fame and fortune isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
A smile came to his face when it was mentioned that sales of Kindle e-readers had dropped 10 percent.
He is not an avid reader of books per se, but he has perused thousands of comic books.
“Everybody needs to read something. We need to do things besides watching TV and playing computer games. Reading is a great alternative to the crazy world that we live in.”
Stafford takes pride in his shop and says he is very picky about the quality of his material. “I carry topnotch stuff, and I sell it for about 25 percent of what most half-priced bookstores sell their merchandise for. I don’t have a huge selection of movies, but I have some good ones.”
What he enjoys most about being self-employed is that he doesn’t work for a corporation; the drawback is the lack of security in knowing if he is going to make it.
He noted that some of the leather-bound books are enclosed in plastic because he doesn’t want them to be touched.
Stafford pointed out the workmanship that went into books published more than 100 years ago. “The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell,” circa 1880, has an embossed cover. “You never see that anymore,” he said.
One might assume that since his inventory is always changing, there would be clutter everywhere, but that’s not the case. The shop, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-3 p.m. Sunday and Monday, is clean, neat and organized ... the perfect setting for browsing, as books are sorted according to their subject matters.
Rob Taylor, a regular customer, says, “You never know what you are going to find on the shelves. There is always something new. This is the neatest used bookstore in the city. Everyone needs to stop by and see what Mike has to offer.”
And for patrons who are in the mood for something good to eat after visiting, The Garfield Eatery & Coffee next door is known for its delicious food.
“They are good folks, and they have been really been supportive,” Stafford said. “You should give them a try.”