REXBURG — Located in the plaza with Domino’s and the Red Rabbit Grill in Rexburg, there is a bookstore that specializes in textbooks, rocks and minerals, and colorful butterflies.
Brian Ward, the owner of Book Viking, started his business from his dorm room while attending Brigham Young University-Idaho. Ward said that as a junior in college, he would purchase his textbooks from the university’s in-house bookstore and found that the prices were higher than what he could find online.
“I bought 20 books at $5 to $10 a piece and sold them for $50. It was something like a $100 investment for a $1,000 return in just a couple days,” Ward said. “This was my very first test.”
After his test was a success, he kept purchasing books and selling them, but his bedroom became too small. The choice to move his business to a storefront was an easy one to make.
“As it got bigger, really my bedroom got too small to fill up with a bunch of books so it was an easy decision,” he said.
Ward said his very first space was only $300 a month to rent. The business has been in its current location for five of the 12 years it’s been operating.
He said that at the beginning of the semester they can see thousands of students. And because they want to be compliant with fire codes, they try to get students in and out of the building as fast as possible while providing an enjoyable experience.
“It’s a lot of sitting back and trying to figure out how we can make the store better, not just for the employees or managers but also for the customers,” store manager Shalise Wayman Kofford said.
Ward said that several years ago, they started renting books to students before the university did. He said they could save students money up to about 300 percent. That number has grown smaller over the years, but they can still offer students savings on their book list.
Every year thousands of students purchase books at high costs and then go to campus for the “buy back,” where students can sell the books they no longer need, often getting very little back for what they initially paid.
“It’s not really the buyback rates you should be upset about — it’s the price you paid in the first place,” Ward said. “If you paid $500 for something and get $20 back, the problem isn’t that you got $20. The problem is that you paid $500. Because there’s nothing wrong with paying $40 and getting $20 back.”
Kofford said employees at Book Viking try to make the process easy for students.
“We know that no one is really excited to come in and get textbooks,” she said. “That’s part of why we have the gems and minerals because that’s way more fun.”
The windows of Book Viking are laced with shelves full of stone figurines and statues. There’s even a clock made of stone, ready for purchase. The ceiling of the store is dotted with colorful butterflies also for sale.
Ward said he travels to Arizona every year for a convention where craftsmen and retailers sell gems, rocks and minerals. He brings back a truck load of rocks and butterflies every year to his store. He said it was a hobby and loved bringing them to his business.
The butterflies and rocks aren’t the only interesting thing at Book Viking. The bookstore has its own cat. Thor is the name of a gray cat with lots of personality and talent. Featured in Rexburg parades every year, Thor can ride a bike and enjoys doing flips in the air with Ward.
Ward got Thor from the Rexburg Animal Shelter about five years ago and now he’s family.
Kofford said Book Viking is Thor’s castle and that he’s constantly knocking over books and eating people’s lunches if they’re not eaten fast enough.
“We do a lot together — that’s what makes him a good kitty,” Ward said.
For more information on Book Viking, check out their Facebook page at facebook.com/Book-Viking-181639328818.