Downtown Cleburne’s Published Page Book Store teeters on the brink of either success or so long and in need of help to ensure the continued viability of the city’s only bookstore.
“We still have big plans,” owner Jim Hart said. “But the reality is that we’re at a really critical point to be honest. If we can’t figure something out we’re going to have to shut it down. I might be walking over to the Times-Review to see if I can get a job tossing papers.”
Hoping to help, members of the Published Page Writer’s Group asked Hart if they could host a party/fundraiser at the bookstore.
“That’s all their doing,” Hart said. “They asked if I’d mind. I was grateful. Figured it’s better to let someone else help out than go begging yourself.”
The event, Party at Published Page, runs 3-9 p.m. Friday at Published Page, 10 E. Chambers St. Organizers invite residents to bring the whole family for a day of fun and food in support of Cleburne’s “one and only local book store.”
Events scheduled include live readings by local author J.R. Reynolds, live music, raffle prizes, a silent auction and an open mic for poets, storytellers and musicians.
“Also we’re having a scavenger hunt and a Q&A with [owners Jim and Connye Hart],” Cleburne Writer’s Group at Published Page member Laura Pillow said.
Pillow, perhaps unknowingly, drops a “Doctor Who” reference in describing her love for the Published Page.
“It’s bigger inside than it looks from the outside,” Pillow said. “My husband and I have been regular customers and wanted to get word out about this beautiful old building and book store. Earlier on they were still unboxing books, and I didn’t know if they were ready, but now we figure it’s time to really push for it and get word out to try to increase interest and foot traffic.
“I love books, and this is such a wonderful place for us to have downtown. I’d hate to see it go and really don’t want to have to go to Burleson or Fort Worth for books when we have such a great book store right here in Cleburne.”
Hart, who previously served as president of the Independent Booksellers Association and ran a book store in Arlington, said he took a chance on Cleburne hoping to make a go at brick-and-mortar and online sales.
He and his wife opened Published Page on Nov. 20, 2017.
“There was nothing else on the square really, very little going on when we opened,” Hart said. “This building had sat vacant for 18 years. But the landscape has dramatically changed the past couple of years with Loaf’N Dog, Lindy’s, Freddie’s Restaurant and others coming in.”
Mug on the Square, a coffee shop, last week opened next door to Published Page.
“Another great addition to downtown,” Hart said. “They’re super nice people and a coffee shop is great cross fertilization for a book store. We’ve got other things too. Songbird Live, Plaza Theatre, the Garden of Eating and Shabby Shack moving from the mall to downtown. So we had a nucleus going but now you’re seeing things coming together and beginning to take off. I’d love to see a downtown Cleburne where it’s alive at night. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”
After a bit of a slow start things are looking up at Published Page as well, Hart said.
“When we came here I could sense things starting to turn and could see the possibilities,” Hart said. “It’s just that things have gone a bit slower than we planned and hoped.
“Things are starting to turn around and we’re basically break even. The problem is that’s not enough because we’re so behind on what it took to get up and running and started. We’ve been at a deficit since we started.
“Our lien holder has been very patient with us but their patience is about to run out and we need to do something by the end of the month to be able to stay in business.”
Interest in the store continues to grow, Hart said.
“We’re still getting more business from out of the county but that’s beginning to change,” Hart said. “We get older people, still lacking younger people but that’s starting to change too. I think the coffee shop should help with that.”
Several author appearances and other events have been held at the store and Hart hopes to hold more.
“Something for everyone,” Hart said. “I like the idea of moms and dads with kids in here. There are a few mom and pop bookstores left in Dallas, Recycled Books in Denton and then a few in Austin and Houston and I truly believe there’s a need for book stores still where you can look around, hold a book that you don’t have to click on or press buttons to read.
“Words are important. I like the idea that a book may be centuries old but the words inside are still the same now as they were then.”
Pillow agreed and, much like local officials have been stressing for years, called upon residents to support their local business lest downtown revert to vacant storefronts.
Pillow also urged all interested in writing to check out the Cleburne Writer’s Group, which meets at 4 p.m. the second Sunday of each month at the Published Page.