Popular Chico book store to close its doors for good
Howard and Barbara Miller have a passion for books—38 years ago the two met while reading the same book, at the same time, next to a pool in Las Cruces, N.M. Naturally, their first conversation was about the science-fiction novel they were reading, Glory Road by Robert Heinlein.
The couple’s devotion to and excitement about books led to them owning and operating Rerunz Recycled Entertainment in Chico’s Target shopping center, but after 12 years the Millers have decided to close the business and start the next chapter in their lives.
“We feel like we are leaving a hole in Chico,” Howard said, describing his business that cannot be compared to any typical used-book store.
After all, Rerunz packaged all types of used—or recycled—entertainment under the same roof, including used books, audio books, cassettes, CDs, video games and video-game systems, VHS tapes and DVDs, a wide-assortment of puzzles, and long ago, even records. At its peak, the store housed some 10,000 children’s books, the largest audio-book rental establishment in Northern California with 5,000 titles, and a hearty selection of aged video systems like Nintendo 64 and the Atari, Howard said.
The couple will keep the business open till late summer, or the inventory is sold, whichever comes first.
The Millers have been struggling for years with the idea of closing Rerunz’s doors, but not for the typical reasons associated with a dire economy or continued advancements in technology, such as electronic books that are creating losses in revenues for some book sellers. (Last month Borders Group Inc. announced its revenue has fallen 16 percent due to online retailers and discount stores.)
In fact, Howard says business has been healthy. Rerunz has a database of roughly 15,000 customers who have or have had trade credit in the store, and some 150,000 to 250,000 merchandise items came into the store on an annual basis. The Millers say they simply could not find someone interested in buying the business, possibly due to the economy.
The couple, along with their two sons, Chris and Matthew, have been operating Rerunz seven days a week, with few days off, for nearly 12 years. They now want to retire, buyer or not.
“It’s sad to leave it behind,” said Barbara. “I’m sad we weren’t able to sell [Rerunz] to keep it going … We have made good friends, our customers—we know a lot of them by name.”
The Millers prided themselves on customer service. They made personalized bookmarks with nearly 100 different quotations, with one of their favorites being “books … the other channel.”
One unique aspect of the store is the info-marketing philosophy, or “selling you information rather than just a book,” Howard said. In the store are descriptions of specific types of books or series, reading levels and authors. In the mystery section, for example, information is available that references specific genres of mysteries, from cozy mysteries to those about food and forensics.
“It leads our customers to make more and more choices in entertainment,” he said. “We always thought that was fun to do. Our book readers will come in here and spend hours.”
Howard has his memories, such as when the family built the shelves in the store. He recalled the time they were tiling the floors a few years back and a customer banged on the door at 9 p.m., saying he had driven from Fort Bragg because he heard they sold old Nintendo video-game systems.
That’s one way the business stood out from other book sellers, by shelving those atypical products such as outdated video games, VHS or cassette tapes. Rerunz competed with four used bookstores in Chico, three in Paradise and two in Oroville, he said.
Howard does not think electronic books will take over the traditional book business. Some readers may start to age out, but hopefully not in his lifetime. He acknowledged that many youth interested in video games do not even look at the books on the shelves when they are in the store.
“We definitely haven’t seen a decrease in readers because of the Kindle [Reader] … we have customers who have them, but they still read books,” Barbara said. “I personally love holding a book in my hand and carrying it with me. I love the way people use words. I would never be able to write a book myself, but I love reading.”