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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Find a Good Read at Clovis Book Barn

Dec 26, 2016 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Storys of Stories

January 2017
By Jordan Venema
Photo courtesy Clovis Book Barn

Timing can be everything, but it wasn’t everything for investors in 1928, a year before the market crashed, or for new homeowners in 2006, a year before the bubble burst. Signposts suggest that another bad-timing move would have been to open a used bookstore in the early 21st century, right as technology threatened to put print to rest, but that didn’t stop Dan and Peggy Dunklee from opening Book Barn in downtown Clovis.

“The Internet was just starting to take off and most bookstores went out of business because they couldn’t make the transition,” Dan says. “The only way that you could really stay in business was to embrace the Internet and use it. So a lot of bookstores either closed or went online, but we’ve always been a little contrary, so as other stores closed, we decided to open.”

Technology can never replace the experience of the senses, like the sound of a turning page or the smell of an old book, which is why Stephen Fry is probably right: “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” 

Print is probably here to stay, and Book Barn’s popularity could be the proof in the pudding, which could also be attributed to its geographical niche. Visalia has long been without a general bookstore, and even in Fresno “they have a few half-priced bookstores, but nothing with collectibles,” says Dan.

But in Clovis, the Book Barn is your typical mom-and-pop bookstore – “well, not typical anymore,” Dan adds, “unless you want to consider 8,000 square feet typical.” These days and around here, Book Barn is anything but. In fact, Dan’s wife Peggy adds, “We’re probably bigger than some of the libraries around here, too.” 

Book Barn has about 160,000 titles in store, but also a 7,000-square-foot warehouse with about a million and a half additional titles – basically, every bibliophile’s Room
of Requirement.

With so many titles, Book Barn has a section for just about every genre, and according to a nifty interactive map on its website, the store even has a “Chamber of Secrets.” Other sections include staples like fiction, poetry, art, history, and sci-fi, but the store also stocks antiquarian books, westerns, California-related titles and even locally published authors.

Two stories of stories, or as Dan puts it, “everything from books that came out the day before yesterday to – I think the oldest book in the store is 1560 or so.”

Other than offering a world of and in books, the store also hosts events from book clubs to writers groups, as well a Mother Goose who reads for children, and Gracie the therapy dog, who visits every other Saturday for an hour in the afternoon. “Kids can read to her, or if they can’t read, they can just pet her and hang out without feeling pressure,” explains Peggy.

Other than hosting events at their bookstore, the Dunklees also manage the website, which has a calendar of other literary events in the Central Valley “and everything that we’re trying to promote about literacy,” says Dan.

As if all this weren’t enough, the Dunklees even started HBE Publishers, a publishing company that offers editorial, design, layout and marketing services. 

“It’s not like we’re busy or anything,” Peggy says with a laugh. Yes, the Dunklees are breaking the mold of the sleepy, armchair book lovers. They may not even have much time to sit down with their favorite book, though they are happy when other people do.

While it’s wonderful to have a bookstore with thousands of books at your fingertips, the real trick is finding just the right one. Neither Peggy nor Dan mind fingers running down the spines of the product at Book Barn, even if it’s just to take a tale from the shelf and read in one of the store’s many chairs. 

“We don’t have issues with that,” says Dan, even if the guest doesn’t end up buying a book. “We just want to get people reading. That’s what it’s about.”

640 Clovis Ave., Clovis

(559) 297-9052 • Monday - Saturday, 9 am - 6 pm •

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