Owner of Fruita bookstore refuses to write final chapter

Carla Griffin owns Turn the Page Used Bookstore, 119 E. Aspen Ave., in Fruita. The store, which is housed in the former Mesa Federal Bank building, has been successful since it opened in October 2009. Part of that might be because of Griffin’s “silent partner” Coco, a 5-year-old female pug.

The man poked his head inside the door as Carla Griffin and her husband were hauling inventory into Griffin’s new business in Fruita and asked what they were up to.

The response didn’t impress him.

“He said, ‘Used bookstore? In Fruita? Hah, been nice knowing you,’ ” Griffin recalled.

She went home that night and cried. After the first day of business, in which she made $10, Griffin went home and cried again, wondering what she was getting herself into.

A little more than a year later, Griffin has weathered the skepticism, the recession and the popularity of the iPad and the Kindle. And Turn the Page Used Bookstore has found a niche on Fruita’s main thoroughfare as a simple, homey place where bookworms can buy and trade all genres of books, bring their children for a weekly story time and hang out with Coco the pug.

“I’ve refused to give up,” she said when asked what kept her going during her first year in business. “I’ve had days and weeks where I’ve said, ‘Whoa, what am I doing?’ But every time I’ve had a customer come in to buy a book, particularly someone with a child, and they leave smiling, I know I’m doing something right.”

Turn the Page is the realization of a dream the 48-year-old Griffin shared with her father. They figured they could open one, given the fact he was a fan of Dean Koontz and Tom Clancy, she was a history buff, and her mother made the best oatmeal cookies.

Griffin moved to Fruita from Denver in 2003 — two years after her father died — to be closer to her family and help care for her mother. After her mother died in 2006, Griffin believed she was ready to move beyond being a stay-at-home mom and get back into the workplace. Corporate America, however, wasn’t appealing.

“People look at you when you’re in your 40s and you want a job, and they laugh at you,” she said.

So, she enrolled in a couple of classes at the Business Incubator Center last fall and began formulating a business plan. Using money she inherited from her parents, she invested $10,000 in the bookstore, buying 5,200 books from a friend who had closed a store in Denver.

Griffin sells books for a little less than half their original retail price, and she gives 25 percent credit to customers who bring in books that are in good condition. She also sells art, soap and candles created by local artists and artisans. A free weekly story time and craft draws in a younger crowd.

“There’s nothing more important than seeing a child with a book,” she said. “I still like seeing that a book can be your friend.”

Griffin keeps her overhead low. She only accepts cash and checks, avoiding fees charged by credit card companies, and there is no landline phone. Her biggest splurge thus far has been Internet service.

Turn the Page hasn’t been a big moneymaker for Griffin, although she never intended it to be one. She still isn’t to the point where she’s making $100 a day, though she’s confident she’ll get there. But the fact that a startup has made it this far during a turbulent economic time is encouraging to her.

As opposed to what she heard from that man more than a year ago.

She kept her eye out for him during a party celebrating her business’ one-year anniversary last month.

“I was so hoping I would find that Doubting Thomas,” she said.


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