CALDWELL — One of Caldwell’s only bookstores has hit a milestone — The Rubaiyat LLC is turning 7 on Jan. 12. The bookstore will host a celebration that day with wine, chocolate cake and French poetry.
Amy Perry, co-owner of Rubaiyat, was told a bookstore in Caldwell wouldn’t work.
“People in Caldwell don’t read,” she said she was told.
The store started with a collection of 5,563 books and has now grown to more than 19,000.
Perry moved to Caldwell in 2006 and for years she “whined, moaned and complained” about the lack of a bookstore in the city, she said.
Then in 2010, she decided she had to do something about it herself.
For $27.36, Perry bought hundreds of books from garage sales and dollar-a-bag library sales. She spent most of that year working on designing shelves and collecting books.
Soon she was ready to open, except for one thing — she needed a storefront.
“I was set for a year,” Perry said. “I had the money to pay off rent and utilities.”
She even found a “lovely place” in Boise, she said. But after driving there, Perry decided she didn’t want her bookstore in Boise. She drove back to Caldwell and decided she wanted to read a book with the word “Alice” in its title.
“I had 5,563 books and not one with word ‘Alice’ in its title,” she said. “Not even ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”
She picked the first book she saw at the Idaho Youth Ranch. The book, “A town like Alice” by Nevil Shute published in 1950, changed everything for Perry.
From the book, Perry learned that if she wanted a bookstore in Caldwell, she had to “just do it,” she said.
She found a Realtor and tapped into a spirit of persistence, calling the Realtor at 9:30, 11:30 and 4:30 for days, Perry said.
“And the Rubaiyat was born,” Ken Nelson, co-owner, said.
On Jan. 12, 2011, Perry opened the doors. A year later, she moved the store to its current location on Arthur Street.
Moving forward, both Nelson and Perry hope there will always be a bookstore in Caldwell.
“If a new store wants to open here,” Nelson said, “we’ll get down and help them.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME? A LOT
When Perry was researching how to run a bookstore, she was repeatedly told its name should be one that means a lot to the store’s owner.
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam is a series of Persian poetry. Some of Perry’s first childhood memories are listening to her mother read those poems. With that in mind, Perry decided to name her store The Rubaiyat.
The year 2017 was full of construction in downtown Caldwell. Improvements on Main Street and Indian Creek Plaza construction both occupied the better chunk of last year.
While that affected her business, Perry said she is looking forward to 2018, when the work on the plaza is completed.
She is also planning to host open mic nights and book club readings at the store, mostly to encourage new local talent, she said.
For now, The Rubaiyat has a round wooden center table with four chairs around it. Perry and Nelson’s friends visit them often to chat, read and have a cup of coffee.
Support from the community and encouragement from her friends kept her going even as business slowed down, Perry said.
BOOKS, GAMES AND PUZZLES
Perry is an avid reader. When asked about her favorite genre, she says, “yes.”
What she means is she reads books of all kinds.
“I have to,” she said. “I like being able to recommend the right books. ... It also helps with the sorting.”
Her store has books in foreign languages, along with works of fiction and nonfiction. Perry also carries a section specific to Idaho.
While the bookstore mainly sells used books, it also carries new editions of local authors and those printed by Caxton Printers in Caldwell, Perry said, to support local business.
The store’s other big item is puzzles. Perry has a unique way of making sure all her puzzles, even the used ones, are complete. Her friends at the Caldwell Senior Citizen Center take the puzzles home, put them together, and bring them back packed to let Perry know they are complete.
“I love my puzzle doers,” she said.
Texas Gordy, a regular at The Rubaiyat, is part of Perry’s puzzle team. But more than just doing puzzles, she enjoys being able to spend time at the bookstore.
“What is a town without a bookstore in it?” Gordy said.