DUNEDIN — In his quest to find the perfect location to live his dream of operating an independent bookshop, Boe Rushing has lived a tale of two cities, tenaciously enduring several moves, and weathering the e-book reader fad, just to keep his Back In The Day Books story alive.
After the drama of four moves between Tarpon Springs and Dunedin, he is now thankful to have found a prime site, at exactly the right time, to return Back In The Day Books to downtown Dunedin at 355 Main St.
“People have been very supportive of Back In The Day Books at our new location. We now have half new books and half used, classics and rare obscure books,” he said.
Rushing said he tries to stock enough of the latest popular titles tabulated by the New York Times and U.S.A. Today Best Seller Lists. At his new larger quarters he can offer everything from fiction to non-fiction, self-help and cooking books, a music, film and TV collection and area devoted to Florida authors. He also features hundreds of classic books, some of which are obscure and hard to find.
After weathering the Kindle and e-book reader fad, more and more people are returning back to books-in-print, Rushing said.
“It’s encouraging to see all the young people and youngsters coming in for books. Parents and grandparents are coming in for their children to buy books,” he said.
“More and more people find they enjoy holding a book, sharing it and thumbing through it. Some books become keepsakes; you can’t do that with e-books,” he said.
“E-book sales are declining, while print books are enjoying a resurgence, along with independent book shops,” he said.
Bookshop customers agree with Rushing’s observation about books in print. Margarita Rodriguez, a tourist from Ann Arbor Michigan, stopped in to buy a copy of the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
She said she likes to read books in print, rather than on a Kindle, because it’s easier to follow and you can retain more of the story. Readers also can mark and underline sections of the book and share it with friends.
Rodriguez said she feels more comfortable looking for books in a small independent bookshop, because she doesn’t feel overwhelmed by good and bad choices to be found in larger corporate stores.
Another customer, Alex Schaffer, who bought a book called “Love and Luck,” said she likes the smell of print books and how you can flip through the pages, instantly judging the progress made and how many more pages until the end.
You also can lend a book to a friend, she added.
A graduate of Stetson Law School, Rushing’s dream of operating a bookshop started 16 years ago, when he opened a small shop in London, Ontario. He left his flourishing law career and relocated to Canada to be closer to his wife’s relatives. When his daughter Holly was born, he and his wife, Tampa orthodontist Emma Rushing, moved back to Florida.
He first opened Back In The Day Books in Tarpon Springs and gained a loyal local following. He thought his bookstore would be a nice fit with the antique shops along Tarpon Avenue.
However, he soon found many antique shops are open very limited days and hours, with even fewer open after 5 p.m.
“Some visitors who came into the bookshop even commented they would not be back to Tarpon Avenue, because there are hardly any antique shops open,” he said.
About 5 years ago former Dunedin City Manager Rob DiSpirito and Community Development Director Bob Ironsmith wooed Rushing to relocate to Downtown Dunedin. He opened in a small shop on Main Street. However, he soon had to move again due to physical issues with the location.
Wanting to remain in Dunedin, Rushing relocated his bookstore, once again, this time to Dunedin’s Broadway. However, even though it is next to Main Street, Broadway did not attract enough pedestrian traffic and most of the businesses were closed in the evening.
He said city officials then promised him space at a proposed retail location planned behind the Dunedin Historical Society Museum at what is now the Lari White Pavilion. Those plans fell through after DiSpirito resigned.
He moved back to Tarpon Avenue, but found the same problems with the lack of pedestrian traffic.
In what is now a happy ending to his drama, a few months ago, during a visit to Dunedin, he noticed his current location available next to Casa Tina’s Mexican Restaurant.
Rushing said he finally found the prime location in the middle of downtown Dunedin, next door to a very popular restaurant that is open into the evening, creating a lot of pedestrian traffic.
Business is growing steadily as more and more people notice the bookstore and stop in to browse. Fans of Back In The Day Books have followed his drama on the shop’s Facebook page.
Back In The Day Books, along with the addition to Casa Tina’s Mexican Restaurant, share the historic site of the former Dixie Theater, which opened in 1919 to show the first silent movies in the city; Rushing notes his bookshelves are now where the old stage was located.
He said after many trials and tribulations, he is never moving again.