Local bookstore turns 75
FAIRMONT– Good News Bookstore in Fairmont celebrates 75 years of business this year. The store, located at 114 E. Third St, has had just two owners. It’s currently owned by Glendon Olson, who has had it since 1978.
Olson shared that the store was first opened in 1946 by Reverend Dexter Collins, who was an Assembly of God pastor.
When asked why Collins started the store initially, Olson said, “I can’t be sure but I think he thought there was a need for Christian materials, inspirational things and gifts.”
Olson said he heard from his own pastor that the store was for sale. Olson had been working as a music teacher in Swea City, Iowa at the time.
“I thought, am I going to do this until I retire? I didn’t think so, so I started looking for hardware stores,” he said.
When his pastor brought up the possibility of buying a bookstore, Olson wasn’t crazy for the idea at first. But the more he thought about it, he realized that he grew up in the area, in East Chain, and wouldn’t have to relocate if he took over the store.
“I asked Dexter about buying it and he told me there were a few other people who were considering it. And then he told me, ‘you’re next.’ He was, as close as I can figure out, 88 at the time I bought it from him,” Olson said.
Collins initially opened the store at a different location. Olson said he’s not sure how long the store has been on E. 3rd St., but said it’s been there as long as he can remember. He recalls it being there when he was in junior high in the 50s.
While originally called Good News Bookstore, Olson said at one point Collins changed the name to News Bookstore, because he thought the original name was too long. When Olson took it over in 1978 he changed it back to Good News Bookstore.
Olson admits the business was way down when he first took possession of the store and that the inventory was really outdated.
“We sold paperbacks for maybe 15 cents and hardcovers for 25 cents just to get rid of them,” Olson said with a laugh.
Olson said soon after he took it over he attended a bookseller association convention and found a wide variety of different gifts and books so the store started carrying more.
“Our phrase is that we are more than a bookstore,” Olson said.
They sell cards, both individual and in boxes. They also sell speciality coffees, mugs, kitchen towels made locally and a variety of jewelry.
They offer imprinting so they can personalize bibles with names and dates. Many people do this for baptisms, confirmations or weddings.
“One year I went to the Martin County Fair and the guy next to me was a Watkins dealer so I started carrying Watkins products,” Olson said.
Of course, they also have quite a few books, mostly inspirational. They also carry bibles.
Olson said one of the biggest changes he’s seen over the years is what’s happened in downtown Fairmont.
“There were a lot of retail businesses in downtown Fairmont when we got the store,” Olson said.
He said unfortunately he’s seen a lot of mom and pop shops close. Olson credits the store’s success in part to the community.
“I feel like we have the best customers in the area. I feel blessed because of the clientele we have, wonderful people,” Olson said.
Along with Olson and his wife Mardell, the store has three part-time employees.
He said one” fascinating” thing that has happened in the last year, is that he received a letter from a jail in Texas.
“The inmate wanted a life recovery bible. They sent the letter here. How they found out about me, I don’t know,” Olson said.
Since then, Olson said the requests have increased. He has a stack of about 50 letters, containing double the requests.
When asked how the inmates pay for the bible, Olson admits that they don’t. He accepts donations and sends the bibles anonymously.
“I’ve sent many, many bibles there. I trust their lives will recover,” Olson said.
Over the years, Olson said they’ve held a number of book signings at the store featuring local authors. On Saturday, there will be a book signing by local author, Rochelle Franzen, who has written “The Secret Garden of Talents.” The signing will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
In looking at his business, Olson said he believes it is quite unique in that they emphasize positive, spiritual materials and gifts to remind people that it’s not only about this life, but their destiny.
“There are very few stores like this in our area,” Olson said.
While Olson said that he’s not a young man anymore, he shared he has no plans to retire anytime soon, as long as he stays healthy.