Epic Books returns to downtown Yellow Springs
- Published: January 16, 2014
In the decades-long saga of Epic Book Shop, an improbable resurrection — 40 years after Gail Lichtenfels first bought it and four years after she shuttered it, Lichtenfels reopened Epic last month as a used bookstore.
It’s been a hero’s journey for Lichtenfels, who opens her bookstore in the face of continuing challenges to independent retailers. This time she will buy and sell used, rather than new books, which is a safer bet, she said.
“I see the bigger picture a little better and I think in that larger context there is definitely a place for independent booksellers — especially for used books.” Lichtenfels said this week. “I’m optimistic.”
Lichtenfels pointed to new industry trends favoring independents over the likes of book behemoths Amazon and Barnes & Noble. According to a Washington Post story last month, more indie bookstores are opening in the U.S. than closing, and the membership of the American Booksellers Association, which reached a low of 1,600 in 2008, has grown to more than 2,000, while sales at independents are increasing. And despite the rise of electronic readers, books have staying power, Lichtenfels said.
“I think that’s what is being revealed in the opening of independents, basically books are not going to go away,” Lichtenfels said. “I’m an example of someone, and I know a lot of people, who are still into books.”
The new Epic is located in the space vacated by Main Squeeze, 229 Xenia Ave., and already bookshelves are stocked full of everything from literature and politics to children’s books and astrology. Since closing Epic in 2009, Lichtenfels has run a successful online used book business out of an office at the Union Schoolhouse, and recently decided she wanted to make the books she has accumulated available locally as well.
“I end up with a lot of stuff that I would rather put in a shop so it seems like a natural thing to do,” Lichtenfels said of opening up a storefront. People browse brick-and-mortar bookstores in ways they don’t when they purchase online, she said.
The former Epic was focused on religion, philosophy, mysticism and psychology titles, and while the new store will have large selections on these topics, Lichtenfels has also been buying and selling books on all subjects. A large literature section has everything from the classics to Stephen King, while the health and spiritual healing section is also well stocked.
Lichtenfels is looking forward to running events out of the new Epic. On Sundays at 1 p.m. she will host a story time for children, reading from the Raggedy Ann and Andy series. And a longtime local Jungian study group will now meet at the shop on the fourth Friday of every month at 6:30 p.m. That group is open to new members, and is currently reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Lichtenfels also hopes that people feel comfortable hanging out in new space, which is “private yet right in the center of town,” she said. It will be equipped with WiFi, while customers can bring in coffee and food.
“People are completely welcome to come in for a few hours and read or whatever,” Lichtenfels said.
Lichtenfels is available to set up and run book tables at events, can special order titles for customers and is open to requests, she said. She will pay cash for used books, while she is taking donations as well.
Instead of competing with other local bookstores, Lichtenfels sees that Epic will compliment them. At one time the village had five or more bookstores, and could become known again as a destination for book buyers, she said.
“You go to Wilmington if you want to buy an antique,” Lichtenfels said. “I would love to see Yellow Springs become book central.”
As a Greenon High School student in nearby Enon, Lichtenfels began working at Epic Book Shop, then located on Xenia Avenue and owned by Bob Devine, in 1970 before purchasing the business in 1974 for $1,000, according to a News article. She closed it when revenue dropped as larger retailers were draining customers and sales.
Lichtenfels, who also teaches philosophy at Wright State University as well as Ayurveda and yoga at a wellness center in Huber Heights, looks forward to focusing on book selling once again. A lifelong book lover, Lichtenfels is proud that selling books is her life’s work.
“I love books to begin with, I love the culture of books and I love the people who love the books,” Lichtenfels said. “It’s an honorable way to make a living.”
Those interested in participating in the Jungian discussion group or who have other questions can email Lichtenfels at [email protected].