TRAVERSE CITY — Paul Stebleton can think of worse things to do with his time than to sit inside his small bookstore all day working on his latest poetry or screenplay.
That’s probably because the University of Michigan creative writing graduate has done a little bit of everything during in the two decades since he graduated from college. He’s sold insurance, stocked produce, worked on a lobster boat and worked for big-box book retailers.
Then, about 17 years ago Stebleton, 43, decided to strike out on his own and turn a hobby into a job.
“I always dreamed of owning my own book shop,” he said.
But he didn’t want to own just any book retailer. Stebleton wanted to own a shop that specializes in first editions and collectible books. He already had amassed a sizable collection of modern first-edition books and signed copies, so it wasn’t a huge jump to move some of the collection to the shelves of a store.
At first, he operated out of shared spaces. Most recently his store was called Book-O-Rama and was housed inside the Bookie Joint downtown Traverse City.
Then, about two weeks ago, he moved the shop to a new location inside The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. It’s small, but packed with rare and collectible books.
“I like to feel we have copies that will fill holes in people’s collections,” he said. “My wife and I both had bought books. We looked at the values of some of them and said ‘maybe we should start selling.’”
About the time Stebleton stole a copy of his favorite book, “Post Office” by Charles Bukowski, from a library downstate, he began collecting books.
“Yep, I was one of those,” he said with a smile.
Shortly after that, he stopped using a library card to get his hands on books.
“It’s cheaper for me to buy the books,” he added.
He now has four copies of the book, one first edition and three reader copies. But you won’t find that book in the store.
Today Stebleton estimates he has about 50,000 books between his personal collection and the stock in the store.
“If you don’t see something here, we probably have it at home,” he said.
Behind the counter in the store, sitting on wall shelves, is displayed an array of Tom Clancy’s books. Stebleton expects increased interest in the recently-deceased author’s books.
To Stebleton, books a much more than a story on paper. They can be an insight into an owner’s life, he said.
“You can tell a lot about somebody by the books on the shelf,” he said. “That’s the first thing I look at when I go in somebody’s house.”
If you were to look at Stebleton’s house you’d probably learn one really important thing about him.
“Once a book goes out of print, there’s no guarantee it will go back in print,” he said. “I hate to see books thrown away.”
If you want to see Landmark Books, it’s open every day of the week and will host a grand opening Nov. 9. For more details, call 922-7225.