Jimmy Weyant’s used bookstore in Largo, The Scribe’s Perch, is new version of a successful business he once owned in Newport, R.I.
LARGO – By all rights and sense of reason, Jimmy Weyant should never had bought the dozens of boxes of hardback books currently stacked in the back of his new store space in Largo.
This he admits freely. Weyant is retired. He suffers from multiple sclerosis and walks with a cane. He had no space for the books in the mobile home where he lives. The Vietnam veteran lost his last used book business in a divorce and was content to let it end there.
But the collection a fellow seller at the Mustang Flea Market offered was enticing: about 5,500 books, many of them hardback, and all of them in reported good condition. Still, Weyant said he checked out the collection out of a courtesy.
“Frankly, I didn’t go in thinking it would be anything,” he said. “On the way to her house, I mused I’d be seeing broken sets of encyclopedias, Readers Digest condensed, etc.”
He was wrong. The woman, who Weyant would not name, once was a very active collector who has “very, very good taste,” he said. The books were mostly nonfiction titles on interesting topics and in good shape. He checked out the books on three different occasions, just to make sure he wasn’t about to make a mistake
“Every time, I was more impressed,” he said.
He decided he couldn’t resist. It took a couple of months to negotiate the deal when he finally made up his mind. He began renting out a business space in mid-July and moved all the boxes of books to a back room.
“It’s like Christmas, every time I open a new box,” he said.
He opened too many boxes, faster than he can process and sort them, he said. It’s a weakness. Weeks into the project, the 65-year-old bearded book guru sat on a rolling chair, his legs crossed in a yoga pose, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of books. Many of the books have slips of paper stuck between their pages. Those are ones he’s ready to list online, just as soon as he figures out some technical issues with the website he’s working with, he said. They’ll go on his shelves too, and sell in-person for half the listed price.
The vast majority of the books are still in their boxes. Weyant’s eyes, peering bright blue over reading glasses, were enlivened rather than overwhelmed by the scope of his task. His tastes are very specific.
“If it ain’t a book or a bookend, I’m not interested,” he admitted.
His new business, named The Scribe’s Perch, is an updated version of a successful used bookstore and rare book auction operation he ran in Rhode Island for more than 10 years. He’s been in the business for a long time. But Weyant said he didn’t read a book of his own volition until he was drafted into the Army. While he was stationed in Vietnam, his passion for books sparked after he realized that “you couldn’t go down and get drunk every night.” Instead, the company clerk, who was a reader, and got him interested in the books supplied by the Red Cross.
“It was wonderful when a box of books came because we got first pickings,” Weyant said.
After he was discharged, he lived in Australia, working as a traveling salesman for three years. He returned to get an education through the G.I. Bill, enrolling in Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.
“My granddad passed away and left me a barrel of money,” he explained. “At that stage, I thought, ‘Well gee, I’d rather not do anything but this.’ So I opened my store.”
He opened The Scribe’s Perch’s predecessor in 1984, in Newport, R.I. The business started out as a simple used bookstore. But Weyant had a brilliant idea: why not advertise the business and an associated 800 number as a used book search service in major newspapers in other parts of the country?
He later used the skills he had learned as a traveling salesman to become a used book dealer, visiting bookstores within a 1,500-mile circuit and collecting rare books the owners “were sick of looking at.” He then sold the books on their behalf in an auction. His niche operation began to grow a solid reputation and was very successful, he said.
But all that fell apart in the divorce, he said. Weyant has been a casual seller since moving to Florida. Sometimes he helps nonprofit thrift stores sort through their book collection. It takes a long time, but he has the expertise to help them earn money off books, he said.
For his own business, he doesn’t keep bestsellers or mass-market paperbacks on his shelves, nothing that hasn’t been around for a while.
“If you’re still talking about it 50 years later, OK, I want it on my shelf,” he said.
He can provide or find books on “anything people have a passion for: growing a perfect rose or building a boat from scratch,” he said. As shopkeeper, his job is to keep interesting titles on the shelves and keep his customers’ spouses occupied with conversation while the bibliophile gets lost searching for the perfect book.
Weyant expects that about 40 percent of the books he has will be listed online and sold in his store. The books have to be valued at least $12 to be worth his time. All others he will sell for cheap in the parking lot in front of his store on the weekends. Any not sold in those yard sales will be donated to charities.
By sorting out the chaff in this way, Weyant will slowly go through all the boxes of books. Every week, the sale in front of his store will be a new collection, he said. The books on his shelves will be constantly changing.
It will take at least a year to go through his new collection, but Weyant doesn’t expect his business to be a long-term venture.
“I’m too old to expand,” he said. “I’m too old to do this.”
But the business is a passion he hasn’t been able to quit.
“I love selling books. I love talking books. I love people who read books,” he said.
For now, The Scribe’s Perch is a hidden niche, quite off the beaten path and without a typical storefront, located in suite 200 of the American Business Center, at 8340 Ulmerton Road in Largo. But Weyant thinks that will change.
“Once bibliophiles find me, they’re going to be delighted,” he said.