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.