TURNING THE PAGE: New Book Bin Owner Greets the Community
By Malissa Watterson - December 14, 2015 – Delmarvanow.com
Earlier this month, customers who attended the annual open house at the Book Bin were given the opportunity to meet the new face of the Onley bookstore.
New owner Philip Wilson was there to officially greet patrons of the Book Bin, which opened its doors on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in 1980.
Wilson, a recently retired college professor, is purchasing the bookstore from current owners Susan Tyler and Mary Smolinski.
“The Book Bin ticked all of my boxes in many, many ways,” said Wilson, who taught history and science for 27 years at universities throughout the country, including Yale University.
A big draw for Wilson was the fact that the independent bookstore was not located near a large-chain, national bookstore.
He said the Book Bin was also the right size for serving the local community and customers traveling up and down Route 13.
Another perk was the fact that the bookstore sold coffee, which makes bookstores more comfortable for customers, Wilson said.
“Being comfortable is very important. It builds loyalty and ultimately also builds sales as well,” he said.
Another highlight for Wilson was the successful teamwork Tyler and Smolinski had cultivated with their full-time and part-time employees.
Referring to staff as the “gold of the business,” Wilson said he will strongly rely on his team of employees because he will never become a local like they are.
Leigh Barnes, who has been working at the Book Bin for 10 years, said Tyler and Smolinkski were diligent in finding an owner that was a good match.
After meeting Wilson, Barnes said she believes her experience at the bookstore will continue to be as pleasant as it has always been.
“He’s very warm and easygoing and seems excited about being here,” said Barnes. “We were all a little nervous at first, but now it seems like the perfect match.”
Having a great staff is what carried the Book Bin during its formative years, said E.A. McMath, who founded the bookstore with business partner, Joanna Synder.
At that time, the Book Bin shared the building where it is housed with the offices of the Eastern Shore News, which was founded by her husband, George McMath.
The former owner, who first hired Smolinski when she was in high school, is happy the business she started 35 years ago will keep its doors opened.
“I am just thrilled Philip is taking over so it doesn’t close,” she said.
Wilson mentioned that Smolinksi and Tyler had discovered the right goods to sell to customers, which is why he has no plans of overhauling inventory.
Because the Eastern Shore is known for its pristine nature, the new owner said he wants to make sure books relating to conservation are fully stocked.
He also wants to continue stocking the strong selection of children’s items, particularly the books that are matched with specific toys.
As far as programs and events at the Book Bin, Wilson said he is interested in building upon the teacher appreciation nights and expanding them to once a month rather than once a year.
Noting that the children reading programs are a big success, Wilson said he certainly would like to see those continue, as well as monthly book club meetings.
He is also considering strengthening ties with Eastern Shore Community College, as well as local churches, civic organizations and environmental groups.
“Community building is a huge part of what makes all businesses successful,” said Wilson.
He will officially begin as the new owner of the Book Bin in January 2016, but he said he is counting on the continued support of Smolinski and Tyler as he transitions into his new role.
The Book Bin is located at 25304 Lankford Highway in Onley, VA.