Book ‘n’ Brush Juggles Needs of Those Who Want It All

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For Book ‘n’ Brush owner David Hartz, selling books off the shelf is OK, but the real fun comes when the staff becomes “book detectives.”

“I love when a customer comes in and says, ‘Do you have…’ (or) ‘Have you heard of …,’ he said. “Then we go and find it.”

As much as a quarter of all book sales at the downtown Chehalis business come from special orders, Hartz said. 

“I take it as a personal sense of failure if I can’t find the book they want,” he said. 

Now known as Book ‘n’ Brush, the store was founded as The Book Rack in 1969 just down the street by founders Percy and Marilyn Connick. In 1983, Ted and Darlene Held bought the store, renamed it Book ‘n’ Brush and moved to the store’s current location at 518 N. Market Blvd. at a storefront once belonging to Safeway, and later, a meat market.

Today, the store’s children’s book section is located in what used to be a meat locker.

When David and Beverly Hartz moved to Chehalis in 2005, they saw the established bookstore was for sale, and met with the owners. 

“She hit me with her elbow and said, ‘Make it happen,’” Hartz said, with a grin. “She felt I needed something to keep me out of trouble. It’s worked.”

The key to Book ‘n’ Brush’s success today is the diversity of its offerings, Hartz said. 

“If we just sold books, we probably would have gone out of business a long time ago,” he said. 

Books account for about 50 percent of the store’s sales, with art supplies and custom picture framing coming in at 20 percent each. The remaining 10 percent of sales are made up of gifts, cards, candies and other random offerings. 

“We do have to keep juggling,” Hartz said. “We have to respond to our customers. That means anticipating what their needs are.”

That includes e-books, although most of Book ‘n’ Brush’s clientele prefer physical reading material.

“Most of our customers just aren’t as into the e-books,” he said.

For the few that are, Book ‘n’ Brush does work with an e-book supplier. For the rest, the store usually only stocks one copy of each book it sells in order to leave room for a larger variety in its inventory. 

Many of the books placed on a special order can be picked up at the store in 24 hours, he said.  

Art merchandise ranges from coloring books and children’s supplies to high-quality canvases, paints and brushes. The shop has a children’s section where kids can color while their parents shop.

“We’re in the people business. We just happen to sell books, art supplies and custom framing,” Hartz said.

The shop also hosts art classes in an upstairs room, with drawing classes on Mondays, water coloring on Tuesdays and oil and acrylic painting on Wednesdays. A full schedule of art classes and more information is available at www.booknbrush.com.

In addition to its diverse offerings, Book ‘n’ Brush also offers events, including its popular Coloring and Cocktails sessions.

“People responded,” Hartz said in 2016. “We’ve done six of them.”

During the cocktail events, staff turned the shop’s framing center into a makeshift bar and breaks out the cocktail glasses and colored pencils.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Hartz said. 

Earlier in 2016, the event served as a fundraiser for the Veterans Memorial Museum. Hartz promised to match the amount raised at the event. 

Hartz said he’d love to host more book-signing events at his store, but said there simply isn’t enough room with all the books and art supplies.

“I’d love to have another 2,000 square feet,” he said.