<span class="neFMT neFMT_PhotoCredit">Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News</span>                                The staff and partners in the Homer Bookstore pose for a photo on Oct. 29 in the store’s cafe in Homer. From left to right are Sue Post, partner; Jennifer Norton, staff; Jenny Stroyeck, partner; Nancy Vait, staff; Sara Reinert, staff; and Lee Post, partner. The sculpture on the table is of bookstore matriarch Joy Post, mother of Sue and Lee Post, and was sculpted by artist Barbara Jo Auburn House.

Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News The staff and partners in the Homer Bookstore pose for a photo on Oct. 29 in the store’s cafe in Homer. From left to right are Sue Post, partner; Jennifer Norton, staff; Jenny Stroyeck, partner; Nancy Vait, staff; Sara Reinert, staff; and Lee Post, partner. The sculpture on the table is of bookstore matriarch Joy Post, mother of Sue and Lee Post, and was sculpted by artist Barbara Jo Auburn House.

40 years and counting for The Homer Bookstore

“…(T)his store is showing positive growth, and with these three terrific owners and their experience I think they have a bright future. People, if they can do it in Homer, AK, it can be done anywhere.” — Review of The Homer Bookstore, the Indie Bob Spot, www.theindiebobspot.blogspot.com

It began as a couple circular racks of reading materials, has weathered 40 years of Homer’s ups and down, faced the threats independent bookstores across the nation have faced, expanded to an inventory of more than 10,000 titles and reigns as The Homer Bookstore on Pioneer Avenue.

Business partners Lee Post, Sue Post (siblings), and Jenny Stroyeck are inviting the public to stop by Friday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and help them celebrate four decades of business. In addition to enjoying snacks and beverages, customers will be able to purchase one book each at 40 percent and select a free book from advance review copies.

“We are wanting to thank Homer for 40 years of being here,” said Sue Post. “Thanks for your support.”

Woody Suttles sowed the seeds of today’s bookstore with a small selection of reading materials that was bought by Kathy and Splinter Smith in 1974. The Smiths developed it as an official bookstore that, for a time, was in a building next to Alice’s Champagne Palace. It relocated near Homer Electric Association and, when Lakeside Mall opened, The Bookstore, as it was known, moved in.

Joy Post, Lee and Sue’s mom, was teaching in Anchorage and spending her summers on property she owned in Homer. Lee was working at an Anchorage bike shop. Mother and son had their eyes open for an opportunity to move to Homer. The perfect solution, they thought, would be to purchase the bookstore. In 1978, that dream came true, and Joy and Lee began their Homer adventure by sharing 400 square feet of mall space with a yarn business owned by Patty Jay.

“It was a bunch of funky shelves that were mostly wooden boxes with boards between them and cement blocks painted blue,” Lee said. “And there were a bunch of free-standing plastic A-frame stands that held paperbacks. It was just a little, tiny store.”

The book business had a comfortable pace that allowed the Posts to divide their time, each working three-day shifts. During 10 years in the mall, however, the business began to grow. The yarn shop moved out. The bookstore expanded to 1,200 square feet.

After the Eagle Center was constructed on a stretch of the Sterling Highway known locally as “the bypass,” the Posts moved the business to Eagle Center in 1989. They discovered the location brought increased business as people who were shopping for groceries also visited the bookstore.

In addition, in March of that year, the Exxon Valdez struck Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef, and suddenly Southcentral Alaska was busy with crews attempting to contain and clean up the 10 million gallons of spilled oil.

“People were coming and going and spending long periods of time away and wanting to read books and there was extra money in town, so it was a kind of a busy summer because of all that was happening,” Lee said.

During her Anchorage high school years, Sue spent her summers helping at the bookstore. While attending college, she worked at a couple of campus bookstores and continued to spend her summers in Homer. When Joy’s health took a turn, Sue increased her Homer time.

“I made it a point to drive down every Thursday when my classes got done and I’d work Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then drive back to Anchorage, trying to make it so Mom wasn’t stressed out with the store,” Sue said. “At the end of that summer, Lee said something to me like, ‘we couldn’t have done this without you’ or ‘you really pulled your weight.’ Prior to that I don’t think I took it seriously as being a family business where I could really pull my weight. To have Lee, my big brother, say something like that really planted a seed that some day I could step in full-time.”

That’s exactly what Sue did when Joy decided she wanted to work less and travel more. By then Sue also had experience working at an Anchorage bookstore and had met and become good friends with Stroyeck, who also made the move.

“(Jenny’s) husband and my now-husband were willing to make the move to Homer, and it felt like a really good time to plunge in,” Sue said.

The two brought their experience with computer systems that increased efficiency for the growing business. Index cards — one per each title — on which were tracked inventory, sales and orders, were soon retired.

After Joy died in 1995, Lee, Sue and Jenny took over operation of what was officially renamed The Homer Bookstore. A short few years later, they found themselves facing another move when the Eagle Center sold to Safeway and long-term leases weren’t renewed.

The search began for a new home. Consideration was given to partnering and sharing space with another business, but eventually the focus narrowed to 332 E. Pioneer Avenue, former home of Millie’s Video.

In addition to a main floor with ample space for the books, there was a second story that offered rental space.

“We were a little concerned about having to be a destination, but there really weren’t any options. And we had wanted for a long time to be part of Pioneer Avenue. So we took a leap of faith and it worked out fine,” Jenny said.

Funding for the move came from an unlikely source: the Beanie Baby craze that swept across the country in the 1990s. Prior to sales of the little stuffed toys hitting a frenzied pitch, The Homer Bookstore became established as a dealer, stocking several of the Alaska-themed animals.

“Sales were absolutely insane for a couple of years and we saved enough money from those silly little toys that we had enough to make a down payment on the building,” Lee said, who laughingly had so many stored at his house that he considered their R-value as possible insulation for his attic if they didn’t sell.

Summer of 2001 was busy. The new location was remodeled, shelving was built, the store closed for Labor Day weekend so the move could take place, and on Sept. 4, The Homer Bookstore opened on Pioneer Avenue.

Challenges along the way have included the nationwide threat of large chain bookstores, e-books and the possibility they would bring an end to printed books, and the convenience of online shopping.

The Homer Bookstore stood strong, Lee said, crediting “a highly educated town with an awful high percentage that are writers and readers and they are very loyal.”

In addition, there’s a “pretty devoted crew from up the road who make an effort to come down and stop in,” Jenny said. “We very much appreciate that people make the effort to do that.”

“One thing I should say is the luck we have here with local authors. It’s pretty substantial to walk in and see how big (a) the Alaskana section is and (b) the local author shelf is,” Sue said. “We need these readers and writers.”

In return, The Homer Bookstore offers “a place where you can find diverse perspectives, diverse opinions, a place where people can feel comfortable, have a cup of coffee, look at books. We hope it’s a place kids like to come so we can indoctrinate the next generation into reading,” Jenny said.

“We never looked at it like this was our store. We are a mirror of Homer,” Lee said. “Who knows if we’d be here if it wasn’t for the fact that the people of Homer are who they are in terms of being interested in so many things and supporting a local bookstore?”

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer who lives in Homer. She can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com. Homer News editor and reporter Michael Armstrong is the husband of Homer Bookstore partner Jenny Stroyeck.

Barbara Jo Auburn House made this sculpture of Homer Bookstore matriarch Joy Post. Post died in November 1995, but her legacy continues with co-owners Lee and Sue Post, her children, and Jennifer Stroyeck. The photo was taken in Homer, Alaska, on Oct. 29, 2018. (Photo by MIchael Armstrong/Homer News)

Barbara Jo Auburn House made this sculpture of Homer Bookstore matriarch Joy Post. Post died in November 1995, but her legacy continues with co-owners Lee and Sue Post, her children, and Jennifer Stroyeck. The photo was taken in Homer, Alaska, on Oct. 29, 2018. (Photo by MIchael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Bookstore co-owner Lee Post stands on the porch of the store at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Svedlund Street on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. The upstairs of the building includes offices and apartments for rent. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Bookstore co-owner Lee Post stands on the porch of the store at the corner of Pioneer Avenue and Svedlund Street on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. The upstairs of the building includes offices and apartments for rent. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

A stick man sculpture sits on the front porch of the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

A stick man sculpture sits on the front porch of the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The cooking and reference section at the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The cooking and reference section at the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The card section at the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. The store features many cards by Alaska and local artists. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The card section at the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. The store features many cards by Alaska and local artists. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The “Blind Date With a Book” section at the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. Customers can buy wrapped copies of books and select which charity they would like to support. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

The “Blind Date With a Book” section at the Homer Bookstore on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. Customers can buy wrapped copies of books and select which charity they would like to support. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Bookstore co-owner Lee Post, right, visits with staff Sara Reinert, left, and Nancy Vait, center, at the store on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

Homer Bookstore co-owner Lee Post, right, visits with staff Sara Reinert, left, and Nancy Vait, center, at the store on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)

A photo from the Homer Bookstore’s archives shows the crowd at its first Harry Potter party on July 8, 2000. The Homer Bookstore was then in the Safeway mall on the Sterling Highway in Homer, Alaska — one of several locations the store has been since the Post family bought the store in 1978. (Photo provided)

A photo from the Homer Bookstore’s archives shows the crowd at its first Harry Potter party on July 8, 2000. The Homer Bookstore was then in the Safeway mall on the Sterling Highway in Homer, Alaska — one of several locations the store has been since the Post family bought the store in 1978. (Photo provided)

A photo from the Homer Bookstore’s archives shows the crowd at its first Harry Potter party on July 8, 2000. The Homer Bookstore was then in the Eagle Quality Center (later Safeway) mall on the Sterling Highway in Homer, Alaska — one of several location the store has been since the Post family bought the store in 1978. (Photo provided)

A photo from the Homer Bookstore’s archives shows the crowd at its first Harry Potter party on July 8, 2000. The Homer Bookstore was then in the Eagle Quality Center (later Safeway) mall on the Sterling Highway in Homer, Alaska — one of several location the store has been since the Post family bought the store in 1978. (Photo provided)

Jennifer Norton makes a latte at the Homer Bookstore’s coffee stand on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News).

Jennifer Norton makes a latte at the Homer Bookstore’s coffee stand on Oct. 29, 2018, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News).

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