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High Entrepreneur Legend Ron Chamblin: A number of containers of books grow to be a enterprise

When he went into enterprise for himself practically 50 years in the past, Ron Chamblin devoted himself to personifying the “unbiased” a part of working an unbiased bookstore.

Only one semester away from graduating from the College of North Florida with a level in historical past, Chamblin put down his textbooks in favor of used books in 1976 to open his first retailer.

The 1,300-square-foot area, named merely “Bookmine,” was the start of the enterprise that has grown to 25 workers in two shops with greater than 35,000 sq. toes of books and a Downtown espresso store and cafe, producing 2022 income of $2.5 million.

“After I opened the shop, I felt good if I bought $20 value of books in a day. Now, on a very good weekend, we would hit $25,000,” Chamblin mentioned.

“Having the bookstore has turned out higher than something I may have performed with a historical past diploma.”

A member of the 1960 inaugural class at Nathan Bedford Forrest Excessive Faculty, now generally known as Westside Excessive Faculty, within the Wesconnett neighborhood in West Jacksonville, Chamblin entered the Navy two weeks after commencement and was skilled to be an aviation electrician.

Following 4 years of navy service, he took a job in Fort Lauderdale writing technical manuals for Northrop Grumman Corp.’s elements utilized in NASA’s Apollo moon exploration program.

After six years in South Florida, Chamblin got here residence to Jacksonville the place he went to work as a mechanic in a bike store after which started taking evening courses at UNF.

Chamblin met Cy Crawford, who collected books and bought them out of his residence. He visited Crawford a number of instances every week to flick through the containers.

“I wasn’t raised in a e-book household. Books have been all the time mysterious to me, however I fell in love with books and needed to be round books. I noticed opening a retailer as the way in which to get out of the bike store,” Chamblin mentioned.

Crawford, 76 years outdated in 1975, agreed to switch possession of his stock.

“For some motive, Cy favored me, so he bought me his assortment for $7,500 and let me pay it off at $100 a month,” Chamblin mentioned.

Begin small and continue to grow

Working alone, he rented a storefront and operated Bookmine at 4148 Herschel St. seven days every week. At first, there have been no cabinets, so the books have been separated into classes by style and stacked on the ground.

Chamblin sells some new books and some hard-to-find first editions signed by the writer he acquires from collectors and estates. The core of the enterprise mannequin, then and now, is for patrons to purchase used books for 50% of the duvet value. Many individuals usher in books they’ve learn and alternate them for retailer credit score for books they wish to learn.

That will increase the choice with no transport costs.

Ron Chamblin, 80, in his Chamblin’s Uptown bookstore at 215 N. Laura St. Downtown. Chamblin opened the shop in 2008. The foot site visitors has worn down the ground with prospects shopping the cabinets. He additionally owns Chamblin Bookmine at 4551 Roosevelt Blvd.

Picture by Max Marbut

“Individuals discover books they usually convey them to me,” Chamblin mentioned.

Clients traded in so many books the enterprise outgrew the area, so in 1987 Chamblin rented a location about twice as giant two blocks away alongside Herschel Avenue, the place he labored with three part-time workers.

4 years later, the second storefront was crammed from flooring to ceiling, so Chamblin turned a property proprietor, shopping for the previous Shoppers Warehouse constructing at 4551 Roosevelt Blvd. close to Lakeshore and Ortega.

The choice was so in depth by that point that Chamblin positioned a small signal subsequent to the door: “Used, uncommon and non-existent books.”

It was about twice the area he wanted for the stock when he moved in, Chamblin mentioned.

That area was crammed to the rafters by 2004, so Chamblin purchased a constructing subsequent door and linked Bookmine to the brand new area to extend the footprint to 23,000 sq. toes of books.

Chamblin at the moment is working with designers and contractors, planning a 6,000-square-foot addition to Bookmine that may give him area to proceed rising the stock.

Bookseller turns into Downtown developer

In 2006, Chamblin purchased the two-story, 12,000-square-foot constructing at 215 N. Laura St., a block from the Predominant Library Downtown.

The early-1900s-era construction had a dust flooring and a big part of the second degree had collapsed years earlier and lay in a pile.

Chamblin mentioned his contractor suggested him that the town would possibly be capable of partially subsidize the renovation by means of grants and loans out there for adaptive reuse initiatives within the city core.

In the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Ron Chamblin supplied e-book supply from his retailer on Roosevelt Boulevard, typically by way of bike.

File picture

After reviewing the applying and the way the subsidies work, he determined in opposition to taking that route.

“The method was such that I felt it might price me extra in time, aggravation, conferences and a spotlight to what was required over the 2 or three years to incrementally obtain the cash than it was value. I may higher spend time and power on enhancing the enterprise operation than on the grant course of,” Chamblin mentioned.

He discovered to rely solely on himself at an early age.

“My father taught me to be unbiased and aggressive on pushing issues by means of by way of my very own power and expertise, relying on no one else if doable. This isn’t a nasty behavior to have gained, because it makes one much less depending on any entities. I’ve all the time had the sensation that if the town will simply depart me alone, I’ll get issues performed,” Chamblin mentioned.

A part of the retail technique was so as to add a espresso store and cafe to the bookstore idea Downtown.

“It’s important to supply a couple of services or products to attract folks otherwise you received’t final lengthy. The first factor is books, and we’ve got a wide selection, however folks can even come right here to socialize and meet folks or have enterprise conferences. They will get espresso and lunch or a snack,” Chamblin mentioned.

Chamblin’s Uptown opened in 2008 and Chamblin determined to shut the Roosevelt Boulevard retailer on Sundays to encourage his prospects to buy Downtown.

Chamblin additionally purchased a warehouse in Brooklyn/Riverside in 2008 the place he shops lots of of pallets of books that received’t match on the cabinets.

After retiring, Chamblin says he’s wanting ahead to engaged on his assortment of classic Ford vehicles.

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Combining what’s within the two shops and the warehouse, the stock totals between 4 million and 5 million books, Chamblin mentioned.

“Individuals need to have the ability to discover the books they need. I by no means flip down the chance to purchase books in good situation so long as we don’t have already got too many copies,” he mentioned.

Practically 50 years later, a succession plan

In 2012, Chamblin purchased the three-story constructing subsequent door to Uptown, the previous web site of Gus & Co. shoe and baggage restore.

He started inside demolition, engaged on the undertaking for a number of years solely when the bookstores made sufficient revenue above month-to-month bills to finance the price.

The plan was to transform the higher two flooring into residences with a restaurant on the road degree.

The coronavirus pandemic sidelined these plans so Chamblin bought the constructing in 2022 to a bookstore buyer who plans to finish the renovation.

Proceeds from the sale allowed Chamblin to retire all of his industrial debt and likewise arrange a plan for the way forward for the enterprise.

The important thing part of the succession, Chamblin mentioned, is a core group of people that have labored for him for so long as 15 years whereas he taught them the ideas that make the enterprise thrive.

“I’m working with my attorneys to give you a plan to provide the enterprise – aside from the true property – to my employees. It will likely be employee-owned and they’re going to have shares.”

Chamblin, who will probably be 81 this 12 months, mentioned he has taken solely 5 weeks off since opening his first retailer, together with two weeks when he didn’t depart residence as a result of he had COVID-19.

He plans to proceed checking in with the shops and delivering books about 5 days every week, however the transition will give him the chance to get pleasure from spending extra time at his residence in Fleming Island. He’s wanting ahead to engaged on his assortment of classic Ford vehicles whereas understanding the landmark retail operation he constructed will proceed to be a precious useful resource for his prospects and a viable profession for his loyal workers.

“My goal is to perpetuate the enterprise. I feel if I simply bought it to any person, they might in all probability run it into the bottom,” Chamblin mentioned.



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