We are book lovers in my family.
We have piles of books in corners, on tabletops, and lining bookcases in nearly every room (including the kitchen). That’s why I’m surprised that it took me a year to find Old Renton Book Exchange on Wells in downtown Renton. But now that I have found it, I can say with all certainty that I plan to be a regular customer. On my first visit I walked out with two cookbooks, and my husband had three books on politics.
Old Renton Book Exchange is even better than half-price books; the store charges the customer about one-third the book's cover price.
“We want to provide cheap books to as many people as possible,” said owner Dacia Hanson. She said her model is neighbors passing books from one to another. In this case, a customer brings a used book to the store, shares it with others, grabs another one, and gets store credit.
Hanson has been a book lover her entire life.
When she finished high school and was looking for a job, someone handed her an application for McDonald’s Book Exchange in Redmond. She worked there for 11 years.
When owner Anne St. Germain wanted to open another store, she asked Hanson, "Why don't you do it?"
The Renton resident had always wanted a bookstore in town, so she opened Old Renton Book Exchange in March 2010.
When the store opened, it had 6,000 overstocks from the Redmond store. That has grown to more than 17,000 books. “It has been better than I thought,” Hanson said.
The store is an inviting place to linger, browse, relax. It’s almost like home—just with 17,000 books. Bo, her 8-month-old son, is a happy blue-eyed regular on the floor with his toys or sleeping in the back in his pack-and-play.
“I love Dacia,” said regular customer Patricia Carroll. “She’s the biblio-diva.” Carroll said that Hanson is great at suggesting gifts for friends, and said her friends have always been happy with the suggestions that have been made.
An incredible fact of Old Renton Book Exchange is that there is no catalog. Because Hanson touches each book that comes in and out, she’s able to remember where they all are in the store. She shelves them by genre, then subject, and then author.
Customers are given store credit based upon the book's price. For instance, a hard cover with a price of $21, would earn about $7 in store credit. Credit may be used for as much as 65 percent of a purchase. There are other details you can learn at the store.
Hanson said that gardening books are popular now, and they have been getting more books on antiques and collectibles recently. The oldest book that they have in the store is from 1643. It is a book from the Library of Saints and is in French. They also have a first edition of Glinda for any Wizard of Oz fans.
“We have a crazy train following,” Hanson said of the many train-related books in the store. “Probably because of the train that runs through the center of Renton.”
But most of the store inventory includes books that you’d find in any bookstore—just way cheaper. And what’s not to like about that?
“We just want to connect to the community,” Hanson said, “through literature.”