Used books are supposed to be cheap, but 321 Books raises the bar and lowers the price.
The bookstore opened three weeks ago and has already made an impact on the St. Petersburg community with its customer-friendly price model.
While wandering through Tyrone Square Mall’s tiny, new bookstore, shoppers may not realize the bargain they’ve stumbled upon.
The most a 321 customer will ever pay for a single book is three dollars. All hardback books are three dollars, paperback books are two dollars and mass-market and children’s books are one dollar.
321 Books also carries current edition college textbooks, donated by students who no longer need them. It’s not guaranteed that customers will find the textbook they’re looking for, but it’s possible to score a much-needed discount.
However, due to the store’s pricing, 321 Books only accepts cash as payment.
“A lot of people don’t know the concept if they’re new here. They’ll see a $25 ticket and that’s what they’re expecting to pay. When they come to the cashiers and we only charge three dollars customers are shocked,” said Bobby Hauske, co-partner of 321.
What began as an online e-commerce organization has turned into a bookstore looking to bring books to those who otherwise might not be able to afford them. Hauske and his business partner, Tim Russell, were tired of throwing away or recycling books that no longer met Amazon requirements.
“We were paying to have books thrown away and it just made me sick,” Hauske recalled.
321 Books has been an Amazon affiliate for the past seven years. Over 50,000 books make up 321’s inventory allowing the staff to stock the shelves with as many as 1,000 new books per day. Staff regularly sorts through 321’s Clearwater warehouse in search of any missing gems they may have passed over before.
Hauske said the replenished catalog brings in repeat customers each day. He likened customers searching for books to miners panning for gold.
In addition to used books, 321 Books sells CDs, DVDs, school supplies, photo albums and new books. The $3 or less pricing applies to every item in the store.
321 Books also runs a charity that donates books to children all over the state of Florida. They plan to donate 1,000,000 books in 2017 and have already surpassed 65,000 in their efforts.
“We donate to schools, prisons and churches. Really anyone who comes in looking for a book donation we try to help out.” Hauske said.
321 Books also accepts customer donations. A donation bin is located by the main checkout counter. The store is working toward opening up a back door donation center for larger drop-offs.
Along with the donation program, 321 runs a trade-in option. Every two books, considered to be in good condition, traded in will grant a customer one credit.
For example, if one were to trade in two hardback books they would be able to walk away with a hardback of their choosing from the store.
Each credit is recorded in the computer allowing customers to either use their credits right away or save them for later.
The store recently began including a note at the bottom of its receipts to inform customers how much money they saved while shopping.
321 hopes to continue their expansion over the next year and make their way into other locations in the Tampa Bay area.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for five years but to bring it to this level is really exciting,” Hauske said as he gazed at his store in admiration. “The response by customers has been outstanding. Everyone is excited by it.”
Photo by Whitney Elfstrom | The Crow’s Nest