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Amy’s Bookcase perseveres, adapts for 25 years

To celebrate the store’s anniversary and Independent Bookstore Day, a year of free audiobooks is up for grabs
Between Amy Henkenius and her parents’ ownership, the bookstore has been in the family for 43 years. (DelSheree Gladden/The Journal)

For those who may have wondered if Amy’s Bookcase is actually owned by an Amy, it is.

Amy Henkenius has owned the bookstore at 2350 San Juan Blvd. in Farmington for 25 years, longer than any previous owner.

April is a month of celebration for Amy’s Bookcase, combining the anniversary of Henkenius buying the store April 1, 1998, and Independent Bookstore Day April 29.

The bookstore first opened for business in 1968 and was owned by the Livingston family. The bookstore was later owned by the Inskeep family, Andy Locke and the Sharer family before Henkenius’s parents, Dale and Jean Pancoast, bought the store in 1980.

Combining her parents’ ownership with hers, the bookstore has been a family affair for 43 years, with Henkenius involved for all but about 13 years.

Henkenius worked at the bookstores after school throughout high school until she left for college 1985. She said working at the store allowed her dad to work his regular job.

Henkenius said her dad continued to work outside the bookstore “because owning a bookstore is not something you go into to make money. You go into it because you love books. You want to share your love of books with the whole community.”

In the late ‘90s, her parents began considering retirement and Henkenius said her husband, Michael, asked her if she would ever want to move back to Farmington and buy her parents’ store. Her answer was an easy yes.

Support from family, friends and volunteers helps Amy Henkenius keep the bookstore going. (Courtesy photo)

Since 1998, Henkenius has been the only official employee of the bookstore, but she said she has always had tremendous family and community support.

Not only did Henkenius’s two sons help out at the bookstore during their growing up years, she said she has always had a small crew of volunteers willing to pitch in.

When speaking of her volunteers, Henkenius said that help with everything, but “their true love is the books. My husband often says to me, you’re a one woman show, which is not entirely true” because of how much volunteers do to keep everything running smoothly.

Help from family and volunteers has helped Henkenius keep the bookstore going through a flood and a pandemic.

That support helped save the store in 2002 when grading changes to a nearby lot caused the store to flood during a rainstorm. Henkenius said it was only a few inches of water, but because the bookshelves were not elevated at the time, they lost about 10,000 books to water damage.

As new owners of the store, Henkenius said they could’t afford to close for more than three days, so they called in friends, family and volunteers to help with the cleanup. Customer walked through water the first several days after reopening while they continued to clear out the water, toss ruined books and shift shelves from one section of the building to another in order to dry out the space and replace flooring.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the bookstore faced more uncertainty when emergency orders forced the store to close. Henkenius said a government loan helped tide them over, but a unique idea did a lot to carry the bookstore through the initial closure.

The idea started from a post Henkenius saw in a bookseller Facebook group. The store was offering grab bags of books for customers to order and pickup, since in-person shopping was not an option.

Henkenius built on the idea, offering her customers a surprise pack of books all within a specific genre. Michael suggested the name “pandemic packs,” and Henkenius was shocked to see the idea go viral.

Offering pandemic packs during the COVID-19 shutdown helped sustain the bookstore when in-person sales were not allowed. (Courtesy photo)

Giving back to the community who has supported her and the bookstore for so many years is a focus for Henkenius.

Not only does the store support local authors as a spot to hold book signings and events, Henkenius regularly contributes to community programs such as sending books to New Beginnings, area homework clubs or the detention center, and by contributing books to packages going to members of the military or to refugees.

Amy Henkenius won a custom piece of artwork created by Bob Eckstein at her first American Booksellers Association meeting in 2018. (DelSheree Gladden/The Journal)

Facing challenges and adapting is how Henkenius has kept the bookstore going for over 25 years. She said they started out only selling used books, but when customers began asking for new releases she researched how to become a retailer, joined the American Booksellers Association in 2018 and began selling new books as well.

The first year Henkenius attended the ABA’s national conference in Albuquerque, she caught the attention of other attendees by winning the grand prize awarded at the conference’s final breakfast. The prize, a custom piece of artwork by award-winning author and illustrator Bob Eckstein, depicts her bookstore.

After the conference, Henkenius sent Eckstein photos of the bookstore for the artwork and she laughed when his response was, “Well, I've been looking at pictures of your store and, and it's not very sexy, but I'll make it beautiful.”

Henkenius said the piece turned out beautifully and she appreciated that he did fix a rough spot on the roof in the piece. The artwork still hangs in a place of honor near the door.

The store has also incorporated adult coloring books, online book sales through Bookshop.org and book-related accessories, as well as hosting books signings and book-related events throughout the year. Most recently, the bookstore has even ventured into the world of audiobooks through a partnership with Libro.fm.

Libro.fm chose Amy’s Bookcase as one of 250 stores to receive and giveaway a Golden Ticket worth one year of free audiobooks. (Courtesy photo)

To celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, Amy’s Bookcase was chosen by Libro.fm to host one of its Golden Tickets. Whoever finds the ticket will win a one-year supply of audiobooks from Libro.fm.

When asked about future plans for the bookstore, Henkenius said neither of her two sons are interested in taking it over, but she hopes to pass it on to someone who loves books just as much as she does.