Mr. Bill Miller’s Book for a Buck Blowout, held last month near his recently closed Cleburne bookstore, proved very successful in one respect, said Katherine Ann Murphy, a Cleburne resident and one of the organizers of the event.
“We raised enough to help Bill out for the next few months,” Murphy said.
City leaders blocked a portion of James Street running alongside Miller’s building allowing organizers to set tables in the street filled with thousands of books and magazines from the downtown bookstore Miller has operated since the early 1980s.
“We had steady crowds throughout the three days [of the sale],” Murphy said. “I’d say we had about 1,500 to 2,000 overall. A lot of people around town have been asking and wanting to know what’s next for Mr. Bill?
“John Clayton Read [Cleburne artist Sleepy Read’s nephew] showed up with his guitar and played western music, which was really nice. He’s been playing the Fort Worth Stockyards more than 20 years.”
Despite the turnout, plenty of books remain.
“We did fairly well,” Miller said. “But the bottom line is we probably haven’t moved more than a third of the stock in [the store].”
In the interim, organizers established a Facebook page titled Bill’s Books of Cleburne, to keep residents updated, and continue to offer books for sale.
“Since the city closed Bill’s building, people can’t go in there,” Murphy said. “But if they still want books they can contact us through the Facebook page and we can set something up to get books for them.”
Closed for business
Citing health and safety code violations, city officials shuttered Bill’s Bookstore in May and gave him until September to correct a laundry list of more than 20 cited violations. The orders allow Miller to enter his store to make repairs or remove stock, but prohibit him from continuing to live in the building or remain open to the public.
Miller said the store basically broke even and made little profit and that he has nothing to live on past his Social Security check.
Miller said he does not have the money to carry out repairs to his building, which he estimates will cost thousands of dollars.
Several residents in May made donations to help Miller relocate to an apartment in Grandview. Murphy and other residents organized last month’s book sale both to reduce inventory in the store and help Miller financially.
Organizers also opened an account at Pinnacle Bank, which remains open, to collect donations for Miller.
The plan now is to sell Miller’s building.
“If I can sell that place it would be a big help,” Miller said. “I need a bit more than my Social Security, which rent and food takes up most of. The problem is there’s an abundance of vacant buildings in Cleburne and the economy’s not great.”
Miller said he’s sad to see the bookstore close, forcing residents to travel to Burleson or Fort Worth for the next closest bookstores. Miller said his bookstore, while it never made a lot of money, drew customers from Corsicana, Mexia and points beyond to Cleburne on a regular basis.
“I did fairly good trade sending books to inmates which, they can come from family members, they have to be mailed by someone authorized to do that and I think I was the only one in the county allowed to do that,” Miller said. “What the city people don’t understand, I tried to tell them, is that people come in from out of town they’re probably also going to stop and buy a hamburger or something too, or at least some gas.”
Murphy said, however, that while nothing is definite several people have expressed interest in purchasing Miller’s building.
The hope remains for Miller to open a bookstore on a smaller scale in Grandview.
Bart Clark, director of therapy at the Grandview Nursing Home, and the owner of a downtown Grandview building, has spent time with Miller showing him possible available spaces around town including the possibility of allowing Miller to set up in his building.
“Bill’s only been here a month or so but a lot of people in town have gotten to know him already and are kind of worried about seeing that he gets situated and hopefully can find a way to keep running his bookstore,” Clark said. “He seems to be very well thought of from everyone in town who’s met him as far as I can see. I know a lot of people in town are wanting to try to help him.”