David Hutchison always knew he wanted to open a bookstore.
The avid reader’s plan was to get a job with the State Department after college, work overseas and then retire to a cozy bookstore to enjoy a slower pace.
Shortly after 9/11, however, the face of international relations and foreign policy changed, and Hutchison decided it wasn’t how he wanted to spend his life.
In 2002, he moved to Augusta to be near family and tested out the used bookstore idea by selling books on the weekends at the Barnyard Flea Market on Doug Barnard Parkway.
“I felt like Augusta was underserved in the area of used bookstores,” he said. “There was room here for us.”
The Book Tavern, 1026 Broad St., trades used books, offering store credit for half the amount of what they will sell the books for. They sell some books online if there doesn’t seem to be much of a local demand, but it’s the interpersonal exchange that makes Hutchison love his job.
“I want to see it, touch it and get to know the people,” he said of his store.
The online sales have helped to keep the store afloat through the recession, but Hutchison is optimistic about how things will be after the economy balances out.
His average sales have dropped by half in the last few years but his revenue hasn’t decreased nearly that much, so he believes he has accumulated more customers.
“There is hope,” he said with a laugh. “I guess ‘stalled’ would be a good word.”
He opened his first shop on Eighth Street in 2004, and moved to his current location one year later.
He knew he wanted to stay downtown, and is a vocal advocate for the downtown renaissance.
“There seems to be a public perception that is more negative than it deserves,” he said of downtown. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
In the time he has been downtown, he has seen stores like Blue Magnolia, Vintage 965 and Garden City Organics close up shop. This has affected everyone else downtown, he said, and makes him less optimistic about how quickly downtown Augusta will experience a revival.
“Each time a retailer downtown closes, it means less foot traffic for the rest of the businesses,” he said.
The problem with downtown Augusta isn’t real estate or funding, he said. It’s that the idea of shopping within a community is now a foreign concept to many.
“People have forgotten what it’s like,” he said.
Zak Blixrude lives down the street from The Book Tavern and said the convenience of having a quality bookstore downtown has kept him coming back for more.
“This is definitely a business with a high acumen,” he said. “David is very current and he knows exactly what’s going on within his business.”
He also appreciates the local art and poetry journals Hutchison keeps in stock.
“It’s one of the only places around town you can get them,” Blixrude said.
The Book Tavern has many loyal customers and Hutchison said one of his favorite parts of being in business for himself is making sure those customers stay happy. The positive feedback he receives after tracking down a book for someone or recommending a book that a customer enjoys gives him assurance that there will always be a place for small, local businesses.
“I guess the dream is that someday I’ll be able to grow the business to where that’s all I have to worry about,” he said. “I get to focus on what I think is important.”