Have you ever stepped into a bookstore and couldn’t find anyone to help you? When I walked into Bookmans Phoenix, it was magical. I felt like I could tackle my biggest fear, the fear of helplessness and not knowing what to do. I felt the support I needed. Something about the atmosphere, staff, and wide variety of products struck a chord with me.
Founded by Bob Oldfather, Bookman’s story is very intriguing and inspiring. Mr. Oldfather always wanted to become a mechanical engineer. However, at the age of 25, Bob moved back to Tucson from Colorado. There, he started working with his father who owned Livingston’s Used Books, which mostly sold paperbacks and magazines. Bob’s dad realized that Tucson had gotten too big for him, and he wanted to move. His son had a different idea, and said he’d buy his father’s store. His father ended up selling him the store and all of the inventory for only one dollar.
Bookmans officially opened in 1976. Bob considered himself a facilitator, and his customers and employees began to mold the store as they saw fit. It was as if Mr. Oldfather painted a big picture, and then other people filled in the lines and helped to beautify that initial picture. Once the business was established, Bookmans started expanding the music and video games department and saw an expansive new audience through advertising on television, which was uncommon for bookstores at the time. But it worked and soon their new customer base was demanding their own neighborhood locations.
Any day you walk into one of the six locations Bookmans Entertainment Exchange across the state, you’ll discover something new. Bookmans caters to those of all ages. With Story Garden: Grow With Books, not only will the little ones have fun as they listen to a storyteller, parents are also encouraged to participate and every child can take home a free book each week! That is just one of many events Bookmans holds to enhance the community and bring people together.
The mission of Bookmans runs on four core beliefs: Literacy and Education, Free Speech, Animal Welfare, and the Environment.
- Literacy and Education is one of its top priorities. Bookmans believes in encouraging a love of reading to younger customers through Reading Challenges and Reading Programs.
- Free Speech is promoted through fighting censorship because of a patron’s right to read, view, and listen to what they want.
- Animal Welfare is accomplished through hosting, sponsoring, and participating in pet adoptions and organizations that service animal protection and well-being.
- Bookmans supports the Environment by striving to reduce their carbon footprint and bringing awareness to environmental issues.
Katie Downing, who manages the Bookmans on 19th Ave, says customers love Bookmans for their variety in music, games, books, and especially the store credit. If you decide to trade in your old goods, you can then use store credit to buy new collectibles and merchandise. Without question, Bookmans is super friendly and helpful. One thing that makes Bookmans Phoenix different from other locations is their wide variety of nonfiction titles. In fact, they often send a portion of their nonfiction titles to other locations.
Facing adversity can be extremely challenging for many. Despite facing a 3-year light rail installation project, Bookmans Phoenix has still been able to grow. They have maintained their customer count and are seeing new customers daily. On top of that, the store has added to its inventory through items such as toys, housewares, and jewelry. One of the major reasons Bookmans Phoenix was able to grow through this period was because of Katie’s management style. As they say in business, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Says Downing, “Micro-managing people does not work. Cooperation and teamwork makes each of us feel like we have a stake in the success of our operation, from the front line up the chain.”
Bookmans Phoenix is that “it’s all about love.” Here the staff is genuinely passionate about everything the store stands for and their devotion to the customer is like no other. Lastly, you won’t want to miss Bookmans next big event at the Phoenix Art Museum. You will be able to explore the museum for FREE as well experience exciting activities and more. Find more details here.
6230 E. Speedway Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85712
3733 W. Ina Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85741
3330 E. Speedway Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85716
8034 N. 19th Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85021
1056 S. Country Club Dr
Mesa, AZ 85210
1520 S Riordan Ranch
Flagstaff, AZ 86001