When Roger Wurdemann opened Juniper Used and Rare Books 10 years ago this month, he had 3,000 used books to sell. Now, the store doesn’t have the space it needs to fit its collection of almost 45,000 paperbacks and hardcovers.
The Ottawa Street shop is unique in Windsor for being a “house of books” in which each room in the store hosts a different genre. Cooking books, for example, are in the kitchen, while books on gardening are found on the outside porch.
Wurdemann was an English major who worked at factories, a museum and Costco for a time before he decided to get to work on Juniper.
He said his interest in books began while growing up in Toronto and visiting the different libraries. This led to him having a large literary collection growing in his basement.
“When I was about 31 my wife said, ‘Go for it. Just do it. Open a book store and give me my basement back,’ kind of thing,” said Wurdemann. “So I did and it took a few years to save the money and build the book cases.”
The concept of organizing genres by room was inspired by other stores Wurdemann had seen in Stratford and Chicago, but he didn’t choose this layout until he saw this particular building on the market, he said.
“There’s this level of intimacy that you don’t get in a book store generally,” he said. “You do in some, but to have the feeling like you’re in your own house almost and just that sort of intimate, relaxed feeling.”
Wurdemann said there were some difficult times when he first opened the business. He said sometimes he only made $20 to $30 a day and he kept his job at Costco as supplemental income until a few years ago.
However, he said the store opened at a good time because some other used book shops in the city were closing and others have since shut their doors.
“At the same time, I always felt like book stores, they aren’t really competition,” he said. “I mean, there’s just so many books. A book store could open across the street and have 100,000 books and our stock would still be much different.”
After three or four years, Wurdemann said the store had found its “niche” customer base and new rooms started opening.
The store began with five rooms, but now the basement, third floor and porch are welcome to customers. Wurdemann also stores the books he can’t fit in the house out in the garage.
“We’re completely stuffed,” he said. “We just have to continue to try and manage that whole cycle of books coming in and books leaving in an efficient way.”
Wurdemann said about 500 books come in each week, usually from the elderly, people who had a relative die or people who have decided to switch to an e-reader.
The apparent move to digital hasn’t had as much of an effect on this used book store as might be expected, he said.
“One thing I’ve noticed is more young people coming into the store … which is kind of cool because people talk about the death of the book and how digital reading is going to ruin the book,” he said.
While Wurdemann said most people in Windsor who are into books probably know about his store, he still has people come in regularly who ask, “How long have you been open?”
To celebrate the 10-year anniversary, Juniper Books will have 25 per cent off all used books in March. Each following month this year will bring a discount on a specific room.
Wurdemann will also open up the garage to customers every weekend in the summer. Other events, including author readings, raffles and contests, are still being planned for this year.