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A church's thrift store reorganizes to concentrate on one category of merchandise -- books

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - All Saints Episcopal Churchs thrift store in Woodstock has been expanding its bookstore; Sonja Miller (shown) has reorganized thousands of used books for sale. For many years, the Woodstock business district has lacked a bookstore. Back in 1995, when the Woodstock Neighborhood Plan was adopted by Portland City Council, one of the business needs identified by the community was a place where people could go and browse for books.

Now the "Book Nook" helps fills that need. The newly-expanded bookstore section of the All Saints' Episcopal Church "Mustard Seed Thrift Shop", inside the church at 4033 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard, doesn't offer new books, but now has a much wider selection of used books, and at bargain prices, too.

Sonja Miller, a Woodstock resident and member of All Saints' for almost two decades, recently retired from the mental health field. Always a book lover, she decided to spend some of her retirement time helping the thrift store increase its sales by beefing up its bookshelves.

Miller noticed that there are a number of thrift stores in the area, but none was a store that sells a wide variety of books at very inexpensive prices. Meantime, the Mustard Seed had had one room dedicated to books. "I noticed that the book shelves [in the Mustard Seed] had no order, so I spent a couple of weeks clearing shelves and alphabetizing. I found there were even more good books in storage than I thought. I spent most of November getting it ready."

It was a big task, but now all of the categories – mystery, fiction, non-fiction, biography, self-help, life lessons, true crime, science fiction, and classics – are alphabetized by author. Except for the paperbacks on education and the business and finance management shelved in the back room, all categories are now displayed in the main room, which is more well-lit and spacious.

"Our cookbook section has a lot of unique, one-of-a-kind cookbooks," she says. "And I saw that the children's books weren't well highlighted, so I moved them out front – and found toys, games and puzzles to add to that space."

The thrift store manager Mikki Wooldridge and her staff, all volunteers, were delighted with Miller's reorganization, and cleared more shelves for books. "It has just sort of evolved," observes Miller. "We get lots of donations but are hoping to get more science fiction, futuristic and fantasy."

"In retirement, I now read one or two books a week," remarks Miller. "I pay for the books, and then donate them back, which I would love for everyone to do. I recently read 'Water for Elephants' and 'The Help'."

The expanded bookstore, now with its own "Book Nook" name, augments All Saints' strong commitment to community. "We have the hot meals program on Saturday [which the proceeds from the bookstore help support] for about one hundred people, and if anyone comes down for clothes, we also offer them books at half-price," Miller reveals.

Hardcover books are $3, large soft paperback $2, and small paperbacks are fifty cents. The Mustard Seed thrift store and Book Nook are co-located in the basement of the historic Woodstock church. Hours are Friday and Saturday only, from 11 to 3.

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