Whitefish bookstore expanding to Kalispell

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Bookworks in Whitefish is opening a new chapter by adding a store in Kalispell.

Cheryl Watkins, who has owned Bookworks since 1996, plans to have her Kalispell bookstore up and running by the end of September, most likely in the Depot Square complex in downtown Kalispell.

The liquidation and pending closure by September of the Borders bookstore chain — including Borders’ Kalispell store — cinched her decision to expand.

“I actually started looking [for space] last fall, once Borders started Chapter 11” bankruptcy protection, Watkins said.

Borders closed 228 stores earlier this year and is closing its remaining 399 stores after the company failed to receive any bids that would keep the chain in business.

“I’ve had so much good response” to the Kalispell store, Watkins said.

While larger chain bookstores have been unable to adapt to the rapidly changing book industry and its e-reader explosion, there’s still a place for independent bookstores, she said.

She doesn’t carry any electronic reading devices at her Whitefish store and doesn’t plan to get into that end of the book business.

“Book people are book people,” she said. “They want the feel of a book in their hands.”

Watkins said she has visited with the owners of The Bookshelf, a used bookstore that opened last year where Books West was located on Main Street in Kalispell, and believes their businesses will complement each other.

“There are people who won’t buy used books, and there are people who won’t buy new books,” she said.

Watkins hasn’t finalized a lease yet at Depot Square but is relatively sure that’s where her new shop will end up.

“It’s a nice walking area, even though the parking is a little squirrelly,” she said.

Watkins bought Bookworks in 1996 from Robert and Susan Zarobsky and has nurtured a quintessential small-town bookstore atmosphere with a staff of knowledgeable and friendly people who know their customers’ reading habits.

“You have to know your clients,” she said.

In Whitefish her clientele tends to favor nonfiction and classics.

“I’ll bet we sell more classics than anyone,” Watkins commented. “We go through them like crazy.”

It can be tricky keeping up with reader urges that come in surges. Recently she saw a run on the popular nonfiction book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

The store’s inventory has always reflected local and current reading desires rather than corporate “cookie-cutter” publishing trends, she said.

In addition to a healthy inventory of fiction, nonfiction, children’s books and Montana and Glacier National Park books, Bookworks has an impressive collection of greeting cards for sale that have come from “all over Europe,” Watkins said.

She plans to start on a smaller scale with the Kalispell store, tentatively having the bookstore open Tuesday through Saturday. It will be staffed with one full-time clerk and a couple of part-time employees.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.


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