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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cool cat sets store's offbeat tone

For the Journal-Constitution

When customers walk into Bound to Be Read Books, the first face they're likely to see isn't that of owner Jeff McCord. Nor will they be greeted by one of the store's part-time associates. Instead, they'll find a salesperson of furry persuasion.

Kona the Bookstore Cat serves as the store's director of public relations, McCord said. Kona is often spotted in the window or high on a shelf near the front of the store, which specializes in used books.

Owner Jeff McCord already has 6,000 used volumes on his shelves at Bound to Be Read Books in East Atlanta, and he expects the number to rise to 10,000 once he unpacks some more boxes.

BOUND TO BE READ BOOKS • Where: 481-B Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta • Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays; and 1 to 8 p.m. Sundays • Information: Call 404-522-0877 or see www.boundtobereadbooks.com

"Her job is to sit in the window and look cute, walk around the store and look cute," McCord said, "and she does a really good job at it."

McCord, who opened Bound to Be Read Books on Flat Shoals Avenue in the East Atlanta Village in the fall, said he acquired Kona from friends who'd rescued the near-lifeless animal from the streets. The friends were moving to Hawaii, and McCord was in search of a bookstore cat.

"Bookstores traditionally have had cats to keep the mice down because mice love to chew on books," he explained. More than contributing to rodent control, McCord says, Kona is good for business, too.

"She's brought people into the store," he said. "She was doing her job one night, sitting in the window looking cute, and a lady actually got up from her table across the street where she was eating. She left her husband and came over to visit the cat because she saw the cat in the window."

The wife, he added, returned to the store after dinner, this time with her husband, and purchased some books. Bound to Be Read Books carries new and remaindered books, which are overstocked and discontinued titles that are sold for half the retail price. The store also has a selection of CDs and audio books and, later this year, plans to start selling cards and journals.

"We're selling good used books," McCord said. "We're very picky about what we take.

"I've had a number of people come in and pick up a book and say, 'Why is it so cheap?' and I tell them, 'It's used' and they go, 'Well, I couldn't tell it's used; it looks like a new book.' Our goal is that every book that we have on our shelf is a book that people would feel proud to take home with them."

The store also is open later hours, he said.

"We're in East Atlanta, where there's a happening night life and restaurant and bar scene, so we're staying open later to meet that need."

The Atlanta native, who lives in Grant Park, said he gets his books from "secret sources," at estate and church sales, and "wherever I can find good used books at good prices."

He added, "We pass along those good prices to the customers."

About 6,000 titles are on the shelves, and McCord said that after unpacking boxes he has stored in the back, that number will rise to 10,000. Thanks to a store database, an employee can look up a title in the computer and retrieve it from the stock.

Bound to Be Read Books also is planning to list its inventory online and has plans to kick off a used book buyback program this year.

On Tuesday, the bookstore will co-sponsor a book signing for mystery writer David Fulmer. The signing takes place 7- 9 p.m. at Smith's Olde Bar on Piedmont Road in Atlanta.

Will Kona be there? "Unfortunately not," McCord said. "Kona is all business. Bars make her nervous and somebody has to stay at the store and run things."


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