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January 11, 2014

Southside shop is all booked up

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Many might argue that books are a thing of the past with tablets and Kindles taking the place of the pages people used to turn.

But there are still many book lovers in upstate New York.

“You are providing people with an experience and promoting literacy,” said Katrina Vega, owner of Black Tree Books located in Oneonta’s Southside Mall. “People are genuinely happy to find a book they will enjoy.”

Vega worked for Borders Books and Waldens Bookstore for 10 years. It was the first job she ever held. When the bookstore left the mall, Vega cast around for another way to contribute an income to her growing family. She worked for other stores in the mall, but she missed the books.

“One day I was talking to a customer, about opening a bookstore,” Vega said. “He is a businessman and he took me seriously. There were no models for a book kiosk — there were plenty of magazine kiosks, but none that sold books like the old book stores. He looked at my business plan and thought it would work.”

Vega opened Black Tree Books with her husband in September 2012. The store is situated in the middle of the mall near the cinema and is set up like a kiosk with no walls.

Black Tree Books sells both new and used books.

Thursday was a busy day at Black Tree Books. Chris Consler of East Meredith came to Black Tree Books around lunch time to see if Vega would accept 15 bags of paperback books.

“We need to donate them somewhere,” Consler said. “I just can’t throw them away. I thought of Salvation Army, but they will give them to someone else if they have enough books, and I thought it would be nice if they stayed in the area and be read again by someone around here.”

Vega offered to purchase the books with either cash or store credit, as is the store’s policy, but Consler said she did not want anything for them.

“I just want to pay it forward,” Consler said.

Vega insisted she at least take some chocolate candy sold at Black Tree Books register.

Another customer who browsed the books at Black Tree Thursday was Cathy Kemp of Milford. She bought several paperbacks.

“I always come here because they have inexpensive paperbacks and a good selection,” Kemp said. “I like romance, mysteries and science fiction. She always has something new and she is always so nice.”

Vega said that she has a very good customer base and the books she offers seem to be the books people want. Her inventory of both new and used books come and go at a steady pace.

“When a book is turned into a movie or a series on TV there is a renewed interest in the book,” Vega said. “For example I have sold a lot of ‘Game of Thrones’ books. Also ‘The Hunger Games,’ ‘End Games’ and ‘50 Shades of Grey,’ they are selling well.”

Vega, who is pregnant with her third child, takes turns with her husband working the bookstore and raising their family. They employ one other person part-time so the two can have family time a few hours each week.