New blood, same old Hyde Park Books in Boise

Marti Martino made a lifetime dream manifest when she bought Hyde Park Books in Boise’s North End at the beginning of the summer. “I’ve been cleaning mostly, but I’ll soon add a few personal touches,” she says.
Marti Martino made a lifetime dream manifest when she bought Hyde Park Books in Boise’s North End at the beginning of the summer. “I’ve been cleaning mostly, but I’ll soon add a few personal touches,” she says.

Don't fret, fans of small bookstores. The 30-year-old bookstore at 1507 N. 13th St. won't be closing its doors like so many others in recent years, at least not if new owner Marti Martino has anything to say about it.

Martino bought the store in July. The previous owner, Jem Wierenga, created a new feel in the store by replacing some shelving with seating for readers and author readings. The layout was part of what drew Martino to the store, and she doesn't plan to make any big changes.

The store has three paid employees and several volunteers who work for book credit. The shelves are 90 percent stocked with used books, though Martino says she plans to add more new titles.

Here's what Martino had to say about book culture and about her decision to jump into the struggling small bookstore industry.

Q: How did you first get involved with the store?

A: I initially answered a Craigslist ad to help with sorting books. As the discussion continued, the option to purchase was presented. Jem has been very gracious in working with me to purchase the shop. After all, I wasn't planning on purchasing a business. But when the opportunity arose, I couldn't say no.

Q: What was attractive about the store that led you to buy it?

A: I've always dreamt of owning a bookstore. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I was already emotionally sold on the idea. As a business, it's a great location. It's got a great, unique vibe about it, and I just knew that it was the right one for me.

Q: Hyde Park is sort of its own little ecosystem. What are the pros and cons of your location?

A: The pros are the neighbors, hands down. I have found them to be incredibly well-read, generous and so supportive of the shop. For the cons I think Hyde Park is a part of town that gets forgotten sometimes. It's a great place for a stroll, for ice cream, books, antiques and great restaurants. I'd encourage anyone who hasn't visited for a while to come on down.

Q: Is the store profitable?

A: The shop definitely pays for itself. There is always room for improvement, as with any business. We are striving to provide great clubs, readings and social events to increase our loyal customer base.

Q: Small bookstores are becoming more scarce in the Barnes & Noble era. What are your thoughts on that trend?

A: I think there will always be a place for small, independent bookstores, especially used bookstores. I believe there are true book lovers who enjoy holding a book while they read. With that being said, technology continues to make a good book easy to get immediately. I think the trick is to have a great selection, to keep key books in stock and let people know that you can deliver what they are looking for. Boise is known for supporting local businesses. If given the choice I believe people would prefer to support local. It's up to owners to have what the people want.

Q: You have finite shelf space. How do you determine which books to carry?

A: It's imperative to continue to turn the inventory allowing for new books to be placed. Fair pricing and quality are key. Beyond that, I watch for bestselling authors [and] classics that will continuously be read. And [I] really listen to my fellow book lovers, who suggest titles to carry all of the time.

Q: Kindles and other gadgets are gaining popularity. What qualities do old-fashioned paper-and-binding books have that are lost with digital reading?

A: There is nothing like the feel of a book. As for used, old books, the history is so important. The experience is more than just about what is on the pages. It's the history of who owned it prior. But, holding a new book can be just as fun. It's the creak of the spine as you open it for the first time. The smell of the pages. It can all be a great experience. Plus, reading a good book can take you away from the technology that we use all day at work and home.

Q: What are the less glamorous aspects of owning a bookstore?

A: I've used a fair amount of soap and water to clean my hands from searching through stacks of books at estate sales, garage sales and storage units. But even that is fun in the end when you find just the right book to add to the collection at the store.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464