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Rare book collectors open store for their treasures

October 23, 2013 · Updated 1:21 PM
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Randy Barnes and Casey DeLoach in their new store. / Sarah Low/Staff Photo

By SARAH LOW
Staff Writer

Setting up shop at Center, book dealers Casey DeLoach and Randy Barnes are bringing literary gold to Vashon with Bookman West.

Inside the small shop at the Old Fuller Store are hundreds of volumes of antique, rare, collectible and signed books from around the world. The pair will sell the books out of their new shop, as well as online, and appraise visitors’ own books.

Listening to him now, you would never know that DeLoach, son of Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie owner Eva DeLoach, hasn’t always loved books.

“As a child, I never really liked books much,” he admitted, “but every Christmas or birthday my mom would give me a special book.”

By the time he was in his teens, DeLoach had a sizable book collection and his interest was piqued. He started reading them, learning more about them and discovering what made them special, he said. He continued to build on the collection himself until there were too many to manage.

“It got to a point where I had this wall of books and I needed to do something with them, so I took them to Elliott Bay Book Company,” he said. “The payout they gave me was very large. I was shocked.”

DeLoach did his homework and began collecting then selling rare books on his own, achieving success quickly.

For over a decade, DeLoach acquired rare, collectible, out-of-print and high-value books and sold them online. During that time, he said, many of his customers and friends suggested he should open a retail shop. So when he saw a space go up for rent in the Old Fuller Store, he jumped on it.

As he was gathering inventory for the new store, DeLoach paid a visit to the Vashon Bookshop, where islander Randy Barnes has a case of collectible books. Barnes, a self-described painter and poet, has dabbled in book sales for the last 20 years.

DeLoach bought a book from Barnes’ collection to put in the store and thought that the two should meet sometime, given their mutual interest.

As fate would have it, they ran into each other not long afterward when they were both buying books.

“We started talking,” DeLoach said. “Our literary interests lie in such different directions we thought we’d make a good pair.”

Both men “robbed” their personal collections, they said, and put them together to fill the new bookshop.

“I was so blown away by how well-read Randy is,” DeLoach said of Barnes. “Writers are important to him. He stands by them.”

Since their grand opening on this month’s First Friday, they’ve had a lot of interest in the store, they said, which isn’t surprising given the treasure trove of first editions, special collections, hard-to-find and autographed books tucked away in the unassuming but charming space that feels perfectly suited to its new offerings.

Some gems inside include a first edition, first print of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”; first editions of the Harry Potter series; first editions of books by Frank L. Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert and Charles Bukowski; titles by Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Ginsburg, Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak; and rare and small press poetry. Many of the shop’s books and sets  have values in the tens of thousands of dollars.

For those looking for autographed tomes, there are many available, particularly in the realm of political figures like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. Soon to arrive at the store is a collection of work by Teddy Roosevelt, which will also be the store’s most valuable item.

The store’s inventory comes from a variety of sources, DeLoach said, including garage sales, antique shops, auctions, rare book conventions and other bookstores.

DeLoach and Barnes say that they hope islanders will also bring books to them, as they can research the value of their items. To determine the value or pricing of their books, aside from many years of experience, the partners have several resources.

“We research everything diligently,” DeLoach explained, with Barnes adding, “Rare books are like fine art, there’s always some speculation involved. It can be a subjective world.”

Having closed down their own online book-selling accounts, the two plan to establish an internet presence for the new store by next month and are hopeful that they’ll be able to maintain a successful business, despite not being located in Vashon town. They expect some collectors will come from Seattle to see their inventory or purchase a specific book.

“Rare book guys, there aren’t very many of us, and we’re pretty tenacious at what we do,” DeLoach said. “And most businesses are cooperative in referring to each other.”

Noting the interest that they’ve already garnered, both men believe that the community will be receptive and say that the taste and selection they’ve seen so far on the island is unmatched.

“There is definitely a market for this,” DeLoach said. “No one stacks a wall of Kindles in their house.”

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