Just minutes after reopening The Dusty Bookshelf at 9 a.m. Saturday, owner Diane Meredith told her employees to take a second.
“This is so important,” she said quietly.
A band, The Grateful Dudes, began playing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” As a dozen employees ran around working, they all laughed, danced and sang along to celebrate the occasion.
Meredith said it was a “Herculean effort” to get the business reopened.
The bookstore, 700 N. Manhattan Ave., has been closed since 2017. That’s when, during a nearly finished remodeling project, some self-heating floor finishing materials spontaneously combusted, Meredith said. Looking around the building, which unfinished but operating, Meredith tried to describe the moment through tears.
“It’s pure joy,” she said.
She answered questions from old and new customers alike, as well as from employees trying to decide where books should go or where she’d like things. The last few weeks, she said, were hectic, but she couldn’t imagine it any other way.
“It was so easy because we were so motivated,” she said. “It really was because all day long, all we got was encouragement, and people cheering us on.”
She said they’ve unintentionally been participating in an “Easter egg hunt” leading up to the opening.
“People have left bags and boxes of books all around Aggieville,” she said. “They’ve dropped them off at Varsity (Donuts, another business Meredith owns) because they couldn’t get into the shop. It’s been super fun.”
Meredith said she and the crew worked until midnight Friday and arrived back at the shop at 7 a.m. Saturday to try and get as much accomplished as possible. Manager Sarah Wilson said it was a lot to process.
“Last night, even though it’s not fully there yet, we were tearing up,” Wilson said. “It’s just so good to have this place back up, and we’re so excited to see all the customers again. We had a lot of regulars, and we missed them.”
Wilson priced books and rang up customers. Around 9:15 a.m., she rang up the first sale of the new shop: “This is How We Do It” by Matt Lamothe and “Busy, Busy Town,” by Richard Scarry for 3-year-old Parker Chamberlin.
Meredith said she wanted to get everything done as quickly as they could.
“We have blisters on our feet, but you can’t even feel them,” she said. “Sleeping is just annoying now. I normally love it, but now I just want to be back here.”
Tony Ridder, David Seay and BrotherJeb Bolan kept the music playing, singing and playing harmonica, guitar and banjo.
Meredith said eventually, the store will serve lunch-type foods and coffee. The bookstore also will start selling new books in addition to the used books it always had. She said they will get some sofas and cafe tables for people to sit down to eat, drink and read at during the day.
“We need to flesh out the sweet stuff, and get more books on the shelves. We need to do more everything,” she said.
“We have more lighting, but it’s still in the box. We’re just going to start doing a couple things a day, every day getting something off the list. It’ll get done in a reasonable time… The crazy is over, now we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Customer MaryAlice Phillips of Wamego said she was just excited to be back in the store at all.
“I’m so thrilled,” she said. “I’ve been hanging on for this for a long time.”