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Columbia Books moves into new, more energy-efficient home

Monday, May 18, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:46 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 18, 2009
Fred the resident cat at Columbia Books is seen among the shelves at the store's new address, 1907 Gordon St., on Tuesday. "This is our sixth location," store owner Annette Kolling-Buckley said, "and I'm not moving again."

COLUMBIA – As Annette Kolling-Buckley unpacked books at the new location of Columbia Books, a fluffy, big-pawed cat named Fred, who is as substantial as a bag of baking potatoes, sat atop boxes. One could argue he was trying to keep them from being moved again.

Fred, who lives in the bookstore, is unsure whether the owners are coming or going, owner Kolling-Buckley said.

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"This is our sixth location," she said, "and I'm not moving again."

Columbia Books, a community fixture since 1977, has moved into a new building off Old 63 that Kolling-Buckley had designed with energy-efficient features she hopes will keep costs low and help the business weather the recession.

Features in the building at 1907 Gordon St. include insulated glass doors and R38 insulation, which help maintain the temperature inside, and dual heat pumps, which allow the store to heat different areas as necessary. The heat pumps will also bring the store a 33 percent reduction on the electric rate during the months of October through May, Kolling-Buckley said.

Filtered windows allow enough light into the store that only some of the energy-efficient overhead lights need to be turned on. Kolling-Buckley is also enthusiastic about the pervious pavement in the parking lot, which absorbs and filters water during the rain and keeps it from rushing into the street.

Kolling-Buckley, who was leasing her previous location next to Streetside Records on Providence Road, said she has found that having a say in the new design has other perks.

"You get to put the light switches where you want," she said.

She also put electrical outlets below the light switches so they won't be in the way of bookshelves. There are also no baseboards behind the bookshelves, which is expected to keep shelves from leaning forward. A perk for Fred the cat is wider windowsills — when Fred sprawls, he really sprawls.

Although Columbia Books has moved five other times, it was still a monumental effort to pack and haul boxes with more than 35,000 volumes. 

"Don't move a bookstore if you don't have to," employee Clayton Weaver said. "It's like playing Tetris on a larger scale, moving bookshelves and boxes in a U-Haul."

To keep online business running during the move, Columbia Books moved its stock in sections. After packing up a room, unloading and unpacking followed immediately.

"Moving is a purgatory-like experience," Kolling-Buckley said.

Despite Columbia Books' limbo during the 15-day moving process, only one order couldn't be filled because the  book couldn't be found, she said.

Columbia Books has a range of new, older and rare books. Many customers order online, and others drop by on their way though town, Kolling-Buckley said.

"To a large extent, I've become a destination store," she said. "I've got a band of customers. Some of them have bought books for their children, and now their children are buying books from me."


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