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Turning the Page on Betty’s Books

Betty Stochl will retire after 35 years in the used book business.

has been presence in High Ridge for 35 years, but its owner, Betty Stochl, has finally decided to retire.

At the age of 80, Betty has seen the used book business through its ups and downs. She’s now ready to turn the page on her used book and comic shop and do a little traveling.

Betty started the book store quite by accident. She said she once spotted a book sale in the newspaper—a widow wanted to sell her husband’s book collection. Betty has always been an avid reader, so she went to look at the collection. She said there were several books she just had to have, but the widow was only interested in selling the entire lot. Betty said she decided to buy all 500 books and brought them home.

When her husband asked what she was going to do with all the books that she didn’t need the reply was simple.

“Well, I’ll sell them,” she said.

She set the books up in storage room and offered them for sale. After about five years she got her first retail space in the basement under an Eat Rite diner at the corner of Highways PP and 30, which is now a Mexican restaurant near the . She moved to her current location at 1520 Gravois Road 19 years ago.

Betty’s Books has thousands of books and comics, from 100-year-old history books to current thrillers. There is literally something for everyone in Betty’s expansive collection of books.

“I have 40,000 in here, then I have a trailer full, a shed full, a truck full. And you can see all the books in boxes on the floor,” she said.

Betty takes in all kinds of titles, which are kept in alphabetical order in broad categories, like science fiction, mysteries, westerns, science, history, cookbooks, gardening and many more.

Her favorite genres to read are science fiction and westerns, while her least favorite are romance novels, which customers seem to bring in by the armful. She has so many Harlequin novels that she’s resorted to placing some in the bathroom—on sale for 50 cents a copy.

Betty gets her inventory mostly from her own customers, who bring in books to trade at 25 percent of face value. She puts a limit of 30 books traded per visit so she can keep up with shelving.

“I had a fellow drive up with a pickup truck full of books, but I told him no. I’ve got no place to put them now,” she said. She found out the man had been driving around yard sales picking up romance novels and had hoped to score big with a book seller.

She admits the book business has declined in recent years and her customers are mainly older readers.

“It’s slowing down, those online things put a hole in this place,” Betty said. She has no need for computers herself—her inventory is kept mainly in her head, with a back-up in a couple binders. She spends most of her time sorting new books into the collection, chatting with her regular customers or reading.

“It’s one of those things, some days its dead in here and other days we’ll get a few families,” Betty said.

Though Betty is retiring, her name will live on. She has an unnamed buyer interested in taking over the business, and the new owner plans to keep the name in place.

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