DARIEN – Sitting on a stool near the front register among 7,000 square feet of merchandise, Paul Garrison surrounds himself with boxes of unsorted books ranging in genre.
"It really is a labor love," Garrison said as he stacked the books into designated categories.
He and his wife, Robyn, of Bolingbrook, are the new owners of Frugal Muse in Darien, an independently owned bookstore offering new and gently used books, music, movies, videogames and children's merchandise.
Garrison said the store will continue to be about reciprocity – exchanging patrons' old or unwanted items for credit, which can be put towards anything in the store.
"If we can't use it ourselves at least we still try to recycle it," he said. "We try not to throw stuff out unless it's damaged, and that makes me feel really good."
Frugal Muse will also continue to offer $1 books on its "bargain wall," as well as a section full of children's material, Garrison said. Additionally, if staff cannot find a specific title, they are willing to order and sell it at a discounted price.
Along with the retail end of Frugal Muse, the store will also host an open mic night every third Wednesday of the month, along with book signings, kids' events and eventually a local book club.
Garrison has been working at the store for 12 years – 11 of which he has been general manager – but as of June 1, he purchased the store from the previous owners, something he said he has wanted to do for years.
"Even though everybody loved the fact that we're independent book store, now it's truly locally owned," he said.
Robyn said she recently quit her old job to go into the store with Paul, who approached her with the idea, which she "fully" supported.
"I just wanted to make sure he knew what he was doing," she said, laughing. "I didn't need much convincing because I had confidence in him."
Paul said the store will still have good relations with the other Frugal Muse in Madison, Wisc., which the previous owners still operate.
For the Garrisons, the notion of being surrounded by books, movies and music all day was an opportunity they could not pass. While the bibliophiles are enthused to become small business owners, they are equally excited to mingle with the shoppers dedicated to local and independent stores.
In an age where brick and mortar book stores are getting pushed out by eBooks, Kindles and online retail, Garrison said he doesn't want to see these stores disappear.
"A store like this is never going to be a cash cow," he said. "As long as it keeps a roof over our head I like the fact we can employ some other people as well and help with local jobs."
The Garrisons will celebrate their new ownership with a ribbon cutting at 5 p.m. July 25. The grand opening will coincide with the "Girls' Night Out" event featuring several specials from stores in the complex, free wine tasting, rub on tattoos and food sampling.
Open Mic Night
• When: Every third Wednesday of the month from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
• Next session: July 16
• Where: Frugal Muse
• Anything is welcome, but material must be appropriate for all ages.
----Girls' Night Out
• The event features store specials, free wine tasting, food samples and giveaways.
• When: July 25
• Where: Frugal Muse shopping center, 7511 Lemont Road, Darien
About Frugal Muse
• What: • Opened Oct. 15, 2000, the Darien location features 7,000 square feet of merchandise, including books, music, movies and video games.
• Where: 7511 Lemont Road, Darien
• More information, call 630-427-1140 or visit www.frugalmusebooks.com.