For Marietta, GA residents, Book Exchange is a simple second-hand bookstore where they can trade in their used books, buy used books and other forms of media, and participate in community events, including a book club. However, for longtime owner Cathy Blanco, Book Exchange is her destiny. After a long, corporate career, Blanco, a Book Exchange customer under the original owner, planned to leave Marietta and move to open a business with a friend out of state when she found out the owner was seeking to sell the business.
"During a conversation with the owner, I found out that he was looking to sell the business," Blanco says. "Upon my return visit [to purchase the store], the owner was busy waiting on customers and I started having doubts and decided to leave and just as I turned my head, a book caught my eye; I believe it was 'It's Easier To Succeed Than Fail' by Chik-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy, but the way it showed on the spine was: It's Easier To Succeed Than Fail Cathy. Funny as this sounds, it was like a lightning bolt to me, a sign that I should move forward and do this."
The first thing she did was make a few environmental changes. Blanco says the original owner frequently smoked in the building, and allowed customers to do so as well. Additionally, and much to Blanco's dismay, there was a pornographic section proudly displayed at the front of the store. Once Blanco purchased the business, she dove deep into making the bookstore something she could be proud of.
"I just knew I could transform this store from a dingy, smoky, unorganized store into a friendly neighborhood gathering spot," Blanco says. "I have owned it for almost 17 years."
And in nearly two decades Blanco has turned the bookstore into a slice of literary heaven for the Marietta community. With a book club, that Blanco calls "very large" and "active, a writer's group, writing workshops, self-published author open houses, book signings and book restoration services, the bookstore is more than just a place to shop around for your next great read. Additionally, there are events for people with interests that extend beyond the bindings of a book: a knitting group, a Mahjong group and kids' painting parties, bringing community members of all ages and interests together.
"Running a small business, let alone a bookstore, in this day and age has been a challenge, as I'm sure anyone could tell you, but we've just really tried to send the message that small businesses matter," Blanco says. "They add color and character to this community. We remember customer's names and their interests. We know their family members, bump into them in the grocery store, sit next to them in church. We know each other [and] we want to take care of each other."