CLEAR LAKE, Iowa (AP) — When Ashley Bruce Lumpkin moved to Clear Lake from Georgia, she was sad to see there wasn’t a particular shop in the community.
A book store.
“The library here is great, but I realized I still like to own the books that I love,” said Bruce Lumpkin. “There’s no independent bookstore around to buy them from, and the closest is like an hour away.”
Her desire to have a bookstore closer to her is what led to The Clear Lake Book Project, a mobile trailer with books for sale. Currently, the trailer is open during Thursdays on Main, but Bruce Lumpkin is looking to expand hours.
The Clear Lake Book Project also has a book club that meets Mondays. The first book the group has selected is “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens.
The idea to open a mobile book store developed earlier this year when Bruce Lumpkin was talking to her husband, Sean Lumpkin. He saw the idea as something that would satisfy his wife’s longing for a bookstore as well as the community’s.
“My husband told everybody my idea before I was even ready to tell anybody my idea,” said Bruce Lumpkin with a smile.
“I was like, ‘I’ll support you. Whatever you want to do, I’ll have no push back,’” Lumpkin told the Mason City Globe Gazette. “I don’t want to push back on her with something she’s dreaming about, and it will help her.”
Bruce Lumpkin, who is self-employed as a web designer, has a business-minded background because of her family. With her creative talents and knowledge, she was only missing one piece: the trailer.
A week after developing and sharing her idea, Bruce Lumpkin found her trailer on a Facebook marketplace page while on a trip in Minnesota. The 24-foot trailer has a finished floor, an electrical panel, and the walls were completely done.
It was exactly what she was looking for. The only problem was finding a vehicle to pick up the trailer.
“We drove home to borrow someone’s truck because we didn’t have a truck to pick up the trailer. It was kind of crazy,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
It took several weeks to get the trailer refurbished and decorated in the way Bruce Lumpkin wanted it. She experienced delays because of the cold weather and a shortage of bookshelves.
“I couldn’t find them anywhere. Literally, not a single company that you can think of -- like Target, Walmart, IKEA -- nobody had them,” said Bruce Lumpkin. “I had to hunt them down to find them.”
Bruce Lumpkin has come up with a way of using tension rods to keep books from falling off the shelves when she moves the trailer. She said she found the idea when looking at campers’ tips and tricks. In total, it takes Bruce Lumpkin 15 minutes to set up and tear down.
The Clear Lake Book Project is filled with a selection of used books and a few new books Bruce Lumpkin that spent six months curating. She made sure to have a wide range of genres, even for children, and recognizable book titles and authors.
“If you buy a book from here, you’re probably supporting another small business,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
Bruce Lumpkin has been happy with the reaction from customers. She is especially pleased at people’s surprise with how current the books are.
“I’m picky about what I buy when I go to the store versus like your grandma’s books from the ’50s that nobody wants to read with like ‘the man with no shirt,’” said Bruce Lumpkin. “That was fun to know that people are like, ‘Wow, you have really good ones here.’”
“It’s just been really cool to see all the people excited (about the trailer),” said Lumpkin. “My favorite thing is watching kids come, and they’re like freaking out because they see “Dog Man” or something.”
Bruce Lumpkin hopes to donate books to teachers and their classrooms. She added she is excited to start making book donations when August comes around.
“That was the giving part of it, because it’s no fun to just do a bookstore. I want to have a purpose behind it,” said Bruce Lumpkin.
“I just love to read, and I want more people to have the opportunity to find a book that they really like,” said Bruce Lumpkin.