CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) – When Ashley Bruce Lumpkin moved to Clear Lake from Georgia, she sadly discovered that there was no specific business in the community.
A book store.
“The library here is great, but I realized I still want to own the books I love,” said Bruce Lumpkin. “There is no independent bookstore nearby to buy them from and the nearest is about an hour away.”
Her desire to have a bookstore near her resulted in The Clear Lake Book Project, a mobile trailer of books for sale. The trailer is currently open on Thursdays on Main, but Bruce Lumpkin would like to extend the hours.
The Clear Lake Book Project also has a book club that meets on Mondays. The first book chosen by the group is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
The idea of opening a mobile bookstore came about earlier this year when Bruce Lumpkin was talking to her husband, Sean Lumpkin. He saw in the idea something that would satisfy both his wife’s yearning for a bookstore and that of the community.
“My husband told everyone my idea before I was even ready to tell anyone my idea,” said Bruce Lumpkin with a smile.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to support you. Whatever you choose to do, I will not resist,'” Lumpkin told the Mason City Globe Gazette. “I don’t want to push her back with something she’s dreaming of and it will help her.”
Bruce Lumpkin, who is a self-employed web designer, comes from an entrepreneurial background due to her family. With her creative talents and knowledge, there was only one piece missing: the trailer.
A week after developing and sharing her idea, Bruce Lumpkin found her trailer on a Facebook Marketplace page while traveling in Minnesota. The 24 foot trailer has a finished floor, electrical panel and walls fully finished.
It was exactly what she was looking for. The only problem was finding a vehicle to pick up the trailer.
“We went home to borrow someone’s truck because we didn’t have a truck to pick up the trailer. It was kind of crazy,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
It took several weeks to refurbish and decorate the trailer the way Bruce Lumpkin wanted. There were delays due to cold weather and a lack of bookshelves.
“I couldn’t find her anywhere. Literally not a single company you can think of — like Target, Walmart, IKEA — nobody had them,” said Bruce Lumpkin. “I had to hunt her down to find her.”
Bruce Lumpkin came up with a way to use tension rods to keep books from falling off the shelves as she moves the trailer. She said she got the idea while looking at tips and tricks from campers. All in all, Bruce Lumpkin needs 15 minutes to set up and take down.
The Clear Lake Book Project is filled with a selection of used books and some new books that Bruce Lumpkin has curated for six months. She paid attention to a wide range of genres, also for children, and recognizable book titles and authors.
“If you buy a book here, you’re probably supporting another small business,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
Bruce Lumpkin was pleased with the customer response. She is particularly pleased when people are surprised at how up-to-date the books are.
“I’m picky about what I buy when I go to the store, unlike your grandma’s books from the ’50s that nobody wants to read, like ‘the man with no shirt,'” said Bruce Lumpkin. “It was fun knowing 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),” said Lumpkin. “My favorite thing is watching kids come and they freak out because they see ‘Dog Man’ or something.”
Bruce Lumpkin hopes to donate books to teachers and their classrooms. She added that she looks forward to starting book donations in August.
“That was what gave it, because it’s not fun just running a bookstore. I want to have a purpose behind it,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
“I just love to read, and I want more people to have the opportunity to find a book they really enjoy,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
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