The owners of the now closed Givens Books plan to sell off their inventory over the course of two days this month. The sales will be Saturday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 17.
“This will be the last hurrah, the very ultimate,” George “Chip” Givens, co-owner, said.
Over 30,000 books will be available for purchase at the old Givens Books building at 1641 E. Main Street in Salem. Books on Sept. 10 will be $2 apiece, with books sold on the following Saturday being $1 apiece. Between 70 and 100 bookcases will also be for sale.
Chip and Susan Givens are Arizona natives. In 1973, his father moved from Arizona to Lynchburg to open up a bookstore.
Roughly 10 years later, the store was doing well. At the time, Chip Givens was an assistant manager at a grocery store, which wasn’t doing well. The couple had considered coming out east to work at his father’s bookstore, but a customer who had driven up from Salem noted that a similar store was needed here.
After traveling to Salem and looking around, they decided to give it a shot.
“We didn’t know a single soul in town, didn’t know a single person,” Chip Givens remembers. They moved to Salem in 1983. “We had never even heard of Salem or the Roanoke Valley.”
Later that same year, they opened Givens Books.
They also knew very little about the bookstore business, but “dived into it and learned.”
In the early days of the business, there were four other used bookstores in town so there was always a mad rush to get to yard sales, flea markets, estate sales and auctions. He would scan the newspapers for classified yard sale and auction ads for the weekends. While he was out searching for books to acquire, she would run the store with their two children. Around noon, he would return to the store with a truckload of books.
The bookstore business turned out to be a natural fit for both of them, given how much they enjoy books and reading. Susan Givens had been raised in a house without a television, so a love of reading had been instilled in her at an early age.
The couple operated the store for 32 years. The business had three components: internet book sales, used books and textbooks.
“It was a real family business in every sense of the word,” he said, adding that their children also worked in the store.
One of the aspects of the job they came to enjoy over the years was getting to interact with customers.
“Readers are a different breed of people. They’re fascinating to talk to. They’re just good people to be around,” Chip Givens said. “That’s what I miss most about this business – the people that I came into contact with on a daily basis.”
Towards the end of their time in business, Chip Givens said that Givens Books had become the default place to go for people who wanted to sell their used books.
Once they started having grandchildren, their priorities changed. In 2014, they closed the business. A friend and his wife asked if they could run it, which they did for about a year and a half. The bookstore then permanently closed.
All of the books are being sold now because there is a likely buyer for the building, so they need to clear it out.
“It was a fun business. It’s been a fun, fun life. It’s been an educational life and it’s been wonderful,” Chip Givens said.
In considering what the future has instore for bookstores, he noted that although chain bookstores are scaling back their retail operations, a good number of independent bookstores are starting to spring up.
“My brother’s store up in Lynchburg is still going strong,” he added.