Books meet art at ABC

Beth Hoyt

Photo by Vic Cantu

Those who think reading printed books is passé, that smartphones and e-books have completely taken over, can think again. ABC Books in Chico celebrated its 40th anniversary in March and the longtime business is a testament to the fact that the printed word lives on. To add a unique flavor to the local brick-and-mortar bookstore scene, ABC also stocks its shelves with locally made jewelry, paintings and other original art. You’ll also find DVDs, audio books and puzzles. Run by Beth Hoyt, with help from her husband, Richard, ABC Books has thousands of titles and buys hundreds of books daily—all for store credit. Visit the store at 950 Mangrove Ave. (in the Cash & Carry shopping center), log onto or call 893-4342 for more info.

Were you the original owners of ABC Books?

We’ve shopped at ABC Books since we were in our 20s, but bought it 16 years ago. ABC Books started on Nord Avenue, next to the original Burger Hut, and this is the fourth location. My husband, Richard, who retired from the ministry after 29 years, is a voracious reader and always said, “When I retire, I want to own a bookstore.”

How do you survive in the age of e-books?

There’s nothing like holding and touching a book. Longtime Chicoans want to save money and lots of our books are competitive with newer e-books and even eBay, when you include shipping. Plus, so many printed books are not available on e-readers, which require a battery pack that can wear out unexpectedly. We don’t see them as competition. Our readers are locals in Chico and surrounding cities. Plus, avid readers have an attachment or “friendship” with their books, and want to recycle them through buying and selling.

I see you carry collectible books.

Yes, we have a vintage trunk displaying our most valuable books. Our most expensive one was an 1826 atlas that sold for $269. But most are priced very reasonably because we want them in people’s hands, not on our shelves.

You also sell art?

Through the years we’ve had customers wanting to show and sell their art without opening their own store or joining an artists co-op. Last fall, my husband said, “Why not open a store for local artists?” So we did. We started a separate store next door called ABC Books & More, but merged them in March. We have over 20 artists who make everything from fine jewelry to painted gourds to steampunk lamps. We like to place them in the book sections that correspond, like the custom aprons that we put in the cookbook section. The turnover is good and it’s really fun to watch it grow. The prices are reasonable, from $5 to $200, and the jewelry always sells best.

Do you compete with The Bookstore downtown?

They’re not competition because we have different demographics. They’re near Chico State and we often refer customers to each other. Coincidentally, they also started 40 years ago and we think there are enough readers to support both of us.