Naomi Chamblin grew up surrounded by books — since 1976 her father has owned two used bookstores in Florida called Chamblin Bookmine. From childhood to college and beyond, the family bookstores were “a very important part of my life,” she said.
After a brief stint living in New York, Chamblin moved to Napa in 2010 with her now-fiancé, Eric Hagyard. She got a job as a teacher at the Young School in St. Helena, but there was one thing lacking at her new home.
“I really missed having used books around,” Chamblin said. At first, she thought about hosting a used book exchange in her garage, then “One day I thought, why don’t I just open a used bookstore?”
After several months of planning, a little serendipity and some help from her dad, who owns a bookstore Chamblin, Hagyard and a third partner recently announced they will open a used bookstore on Pearl Street in downtown Napa on Aug. 1. It will be called Napa Bookmine.
Years ago, Napa was home to a number of independent bookstores, including Volume One Used Books that operated on Second Street near the post office. Today, Copperfield’s Books is the only full-service retail bookstore in Napa.
Chamblin said she’s visited other bookstores in the area, but none drew her in “the way that I want a bookstore to draw me in. Maybe that’s because I like the unexpected things a used bookstore has to offer.”
Besides being more affordable than new books, used books offer a unique sense of discovery, more variety and nostalgia, she said. Chamblin admits she even loves the smell of a used bookstore.
With her father’s stores as a model, Chamblin and Hagyard created a business plan. Their initial idea incorporated offering books, beer and wine.
Serendipity seemed to strike when Chamblin attended a business financing seminar at the Napa Valley College Small Business Development Center. To her astonishment, another participant at the workshop, Elayna Trucker, said she hoped to open a bookstore and bar as well.
“We immediately connected,” Chamblin said. The three quickly decided to join forces. “We have perfectly compatible skill sets,” Chamblin said. Trucker and Chamblin will co-manage the bookstore and Hagyard will manage the finances.
As their plan evolved, so did the combination bar/bookstore idea. For now, “wine and beer are on the backburner until we can afford it,” Chamblin said. “It’s our next step.”
The Napa Bookmine has one important advantage as it prepares to open. Chamblin’s father has already given the store at least 15,000 books. And after attending a recent bookstore closing auction in Martinez, Hagyard was able to secure store fixtures and another 20,000 books.
On May 3, the couple launched an Indiegogo.com campaign to help fund startup costs and the transportation of the books from Florida.
“We know that there are people out there that are more than willing and able to support and help us,” Chamblin said. “Indiegogo is a way to reach out to them and get them involved way before we even open.”
As of Thursday afternoon, 58 “funders” had donated $6,090 toward their $15,000 goal, according to the website. Funders receive a variety of perks depending on level of giving.
“We have been just blown away by the response so far,” Chamblin said.
Besides her love of books, Chamblin said there’s another reason why she wants to open her used bookstore. “I know how I want to engage with Napa, and I’m kind of making the space to do that.” The store will be a “comfortable, clean, relaxed and stimulating place. We want to be a fresh take on a used bookstore.”
While most of the inventory will be used books, 5 to 10 percent of the books will be new. “The majority of our children’s books will be new and a variety of other popular new fiction and non-fiction,” Chamblin said.
In addition to books, the trio plans to offer special events such as speakers on literature, art, local issues, food and wine. There could be performances, writing workshops and sing-alongs, she said. “We’ve even brainstormed way to transform space into a pop-up art gallery,” with mobile shelving and walls, she said.
“I’m in touch with a few people that are helping me connect with local book clubs. We want Napa locals to see us as a venue for a hub of networking and communicating with each other.”
A long community table will be installed “specifically to encourage conversation with each other. You can still come and be alone but make it a little bit easier for people to connect,” Chamblin said.
“I want this to be a part of our community.”