by Max Marbut
It may seem kind of odd to open a book store within a long paragraph or two from a brand new library, but that is exactly what Ron Chamblin, owner of Chamblin Bookmine on Roosevelt Boulevard, has in mind.
Last week, Chamblin purchased a two-story building on Laura Street near the Main Library and has started the process of renovating the structure which was built in 1904. When the addition to the Westside store is complete and the downtown Bookmine opens for business, Chamblin said he’ll have 32,000 square feet of inventory on the shelves at the two locations. The store is well-known among Jacksonville bibliophiles for its “used, rare and non-existent” books.
“I’ve got five storage buildings full of books that I don’t have room to stock right now,” said Chamblin. “I’ve been looking for a downtown location for about a year now and being a half a block from the library is a great place to be.”
He said buying the building made it clear that property values have changed downtown.
“This building was sold in 1991 for $60,000. Two years ago, it sold for $725,000. I closed on it for $930,000 and you know what — in five years that will be a bargain,” he said.
Chamblin said his new store won’t compete with the library but will offer readers other options like used books, hard-to-find titles and the chance to trade in books.
“We have books the library doesn’t have. We carry a lot of mystery titles and romance titles,” he said. “If you look for it long enough, you’ll find it.”
Chamblin said he’s looking at old photographs of the turn-of-the-century building with the idea to restore the windows in the front of the structure to their original design. He also said he plans to keep a lot of exposed brick in the interior, especially in the area where the planned coffee bar will be located.
“I’m going to put tables and booths in the front of the store and build an alcove for the coffee bar. We’re going to have Starbucks coffee or something just like it and I plan to open the door at 8 a.m. during the week for the morning getting-to-work crowd. I don’t think anything goes better with a good book than a good cup of coffee,” he said.
Chamblin said he plans to have the first floor of the building open for business in April.