It might be awhile yet before Bill Jones truly has the time to curl up with a good book, but that day is getting closer.
Jones, owner of Browse Awhile Books in downtown Tipp City, said work on the building damaged by fire last summer should be pretty much done by month’s end. The reopening of the store is anticipated in late February.
Jones and store manager Amanda Carl have been busy placing books removed from the business following the fire back on the new shelves being installed in the redone bookstore building owned by Jones.
The building work is being done/coordinated by Boone Restoration
“Boone Restoration was with us from day one. They have done a fine job, handled all the subcontracting,” Jones said. “It has gone slower than I would have hoped, but probably every bit as quickly as you could expect. Things do not move quickly.”
Everyone – from electricians to HVAC workers to building inspectors – has been “very accommodating, very cooperative and nice people,” he said. Jones said the Miami County building office personnel were “sensitive to historical buildings, the value of historic buildings to the community.”
The fire that struck the night of June 20-21 destroyed the upper area of the 1871 building, damaging upstairs apartments and the business below.
The store’s around 150,000-book inventory was removed with those books that could be salvaged packed in loaned containers and stored primarily in a building at Ginghamsburg Church.
“We have moved in the books that were at Ginghamsburg, the books we thought survived. We are still culling things out, but most are OK,” Jones said.
Another 8,000 to 10,000 books are in Jones’ garage. They will be moved to the store once the books already on site are in place.
Following the fire, each book was removed and checked. If damaged, it was thrown out.
While some friends have popped in to help with the move, Jones said volunteers are “gratefully appreciated.”
Among helpers have been his son, who has come over on weekends from Worthington, and a group of employees from Time Warner who helped one day with the move back in as part of a community service effort. “They worked their tails off,” Jones said.
As the rebuild was planned as much as possible was returned to its pre-fire state, Jones said. The only structural changes to the building were to the damaged apartment. The outside looks the same to the casual eye, Jones said, with new roof, siding and new windows.
Downstairs, new shelving is being built along the walls and bookcases similar to the ones of the pre-fire store will be in the center.
“We still have to figure out what’s going where,” Jones said while going through books. “As things were wiped out, we have to figure out how much space we will need with for this, this this (topic). It is all part of the process,” he said.
Jones said he was “absolutely” glad he chose to rebuild once it was confirmed it would be affordable.
“I will be a lot happier in six to eight weeks … It is a one step at a time thing,” he said. “Everybody said, ‘What can we do to make it happen?’”
As work on the building continued, there were plenty of people peeking in the windows, stopping by to offer works of encouragement.
“This wouldn’t happen in a lot of places. I have held hands with strangers and prayed on the streets. It is just nice stuff,” Jones said.
Countless people are owed thanks for their support, he said. He mentioned specifically
Amity Molds, Ginghamsburg Church, Tonya Brown and family, the Rev. Jim Valekis, Tony’s and That Place on Main along with all others who offered support in some form.
“I couldn’t ask for better neighbors, I’ll tell you,” Jones said.
He started the business in 1980 in Sidney and moved to the Tipp City location in 1990.
The new Browse Awhile Books will be a departure in some ways from many used bookstores. “Used book stores tend to be dreary, extremely eclectic in fixtures and to be ill lit. Those are three things we tried to not have the second time around, at Browse Awhile 2.0,” he said with a laugh. “I think it will be cheerful, extremely well lit.”