CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — When Ashley Bruce Lumpkin moved to Clear Lake from Georgia, she was sad to see there wasn’t a particular store in the community.
“The library here is great, but I’ve realized that I still love owning the books I love,” Bruce Lumpkin said. “There’s no independent bookstore nearby to buy them, and the closest is about an hour away.”
Her desire to have a bookstore closer to her is what led to the Clear Lake Book Project, a mobile trailer with books for sale. Currently, the trailer is open Thursdays on Main, but Bruce Lumpkin is looking to extend the hours.
The Clear Lake Book Project also has a book club that meets on Mondays. The first book the group selected was “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.
The idea of opening a mobile bookstore developed earlier this year when Bruce Lumpkin was talking to his husband, Sean Lumpkin. He saw the idea as something that would satisfy his wife’s desire for a bookstore as well as that of the community.
“My husband told everyone my idea before I was even ready to tell anyone,” Bruce Lumpkin said with a smile.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to support you. Whatever you want to do, I won’t have any resistance,'” Lumpkin told the Mason City Globe Gazette. “I don’t want to push her away with something she dreams of, and that will help her.”
Bruce Lumpkin, who is self-employed as a web designer, has a business-oriented background due to his family. With his creative talents and knowledge, he only needed one piece: the trailer.
A week after developing and sharing his idea, Bruce Lumpkin found his trailer on a Facebook marketplace page while on a trip to Minnesota. The 24 foot trailer has a finished floor, an electrical panel and the walls have been completely redone.
It was exactly what she was looking for. The only problem was finding a vehicle to retrieve the trailer.
“We went home to borrow someone’s truck because we didn’t have a truck to pick up the trailer. It was kinda crazy,” Bruce Lumpkin said.
It took several weeks for the trailer to be refurbished and decorated as Bruce Lumpkin wanted. She experienced delays due to cold weather and a lack of shelves.
“I couldn’t find them anywhere. Literally not a single company you can think of – like Target, Walmart, IKEA – nobody had,” Bruce Lumpkin said. “I had to hunt them to find them.”
Bruce Lumpkin found a way to use tension rods to keep books from falling off the shelves as she moves the trailer. She said she came up with the idea by looking at campers tips and tricks. In total, it takes Bruce Lumpkin 15 minutes to assemble and disassemble.
The Clear Lake Book Project is filled with a selection of used books and a few new books that Bruce Lumpkin spent six months curating. She made sure to have a wide range of genres, even for children, and recognizable book titles and authors.
“If you buy a book from here, you’re probably supporting another small business,” Bruce Lumpkin said.
Bruce Lumpkin was pleased with the customer response. She is particularly delighted with people’s surprise at the news of the books.
“I’m picky about what I buy when I go to the store versus your grandma’s books from the ’50s that no one wants to read like ‘the shirtless man’,” Bruce Lumpkin said. “It was funny to know that people were like, ‘Wow, you’ve got some really good ones here.'”
“It was really cool to see all the people excited (about the trailer),” Lumpkin said. “My favorite thing is watching the kids come in, and they freak out because they see ‘Dog Man’ or something.”
Bruce Lumpkin hopes to donate books to teachers and their classes. She added that she was excited to start donating books in August.
“That was the giving part, because it’s not fun to just do a bookstore. I want to have a purpose behind it,” Bruce Lumpkin said.
“I love to read and I want more people to have the opportunity to find a book they really love,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
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