A Book Lover’s Paradise

Ed and Cynthia Justus
Owners, Talk Story Bookstore

Please tell us about your business. Ed: Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe is a retail bookstore with more than 100,000 books. We have a mixture of new, used, rare and out-of-print titles. Our specialty is being as diverse as possible — a little bit of everything for everyone. We bring in about 4,000 to 6,000 books a month, including those we get from people who drop off their used books for store credit.

How did you start your business? Ed: We were selling items on eBay — all kinds of odds and ends that we could find, including books. We were living on the West side, and after about a month or two of living there, we were offered a space free for a month to start a business in Hanapepe. We thought it was a really great opportunity to sell stuff not only online but also retail. We moved our eBay inventory in there, and when it came time to pay the next month’s rent, we basically had enough money to either pay next month’s rent for the business or next month’s rent for our house. We didn’t know what to do, so we went over to the swinging bridge, and Cynthia and I were holding each other looking up at the sky wondering if we should continue the business, and this full double rainbow appeared at that very moment. If that’s not a sign, then I don’t know what is. So we slept in the van for the first month when we started our business 10 years ago. We eventually let go of a lot of our eBay sales and starting focusing on retail and Amazon, primarily selling books. We moved to our current location in 2006.

What is something you’re proud of achieving throughout the years? Ed: We’ve won 14 awards since being in business and we were featured in The New York Times last December. Our most recent award was Pacific Business News‘ 50 fastest-growing small businesses in Hawaii for 2014. We grew 65 percent from 2011 to 2013.

Why do you do what you do? Cynthia: It’s cool and it’s fun. Ed: It’s a fun way to make money and it’s a really awesome commodity to sell that has lasting value in people’s lives. People come in and buy a book, and it’s just that look on their face of sheer joy or pleasure that they found something they were looking for. Books literally impact their lives; this is information that’s going into their minds and changing their perspective of the world. Cynthia: Books touch people’s lives.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Cynthia: People finding the books that they want. That’s a daily thrill.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

Ed: Keeping up with the demand, especially with the new books. Since we branched into selling them, it’s been interesting trying to keep up with what’s new and popular.

What are some plans for your future? Cynthia: We’ve been trying to open another store for years now. Ed: We’re still looking.

Do you think print is a dying medium?

Ed: Not at all. What’s happening is the whole book industry is changing and adapting — the same thing happened in the music industry when MP3 downloads started coming about. It’s a little different, however, with books because they have this interesting value that you can put them on your shelf and it makes you look smart. It adds character to people’s homes;

people like to show off what they’ve read. Cynthia: It’s true; people actually come in here just to buy books to dress their homes.

What is the best book you’ve recently read?

Ed: The Next 100 Years by George Friedman. He wrote the book in 2010 and the things he wrote about have already started coming true. What’s awesome about the book is that he’s not left- or right-leaning; he’s very objective and looks at the future of the world through population, economics and geography. Cynthia: I recently read a book about older techniques of acupuncture, and I love little cozy mysteries for no-brainer reading.

Talk Story Bookstore 3785 Hanapepe Road 335-6469