Kaua‘i’s Only Bookstore

Ed and Cynthia Justus with Celeste the cat (the real boss). Coco Zickos photos

Please tell us about your business.

Ed: We are the only bookstore on the island, and we’re also the western-most bookstore in the United States. We have more than 55,000 secondhand, new and out-of-print books. We also take books and give people store credit that they can use toward their next purchase.

Cynthia: We do everything book we order, search for, hand-pick and buy about 2,000 books a month.

How did you get started in this business?

Ed: It was really quite by accident. When we came to the island, we started selling on eBay for two-and-a-half years.

Cynthia: We went to garage sales and found things and resold them.

Ed: We moved into a business location in Hanapepe in November 2004, and continued selling a wide variety of odd stuff along with about 3,000 books we were selling online that we picked up at garage sales.

Cynthia: One thing led to another, and we started running a Bed & Breakfast upstairs and an art gallery, coffee shop and restaurant the first Indian restaurant on the island.

Ed: We moved from that location to this one in June 2006, and that’s when we decided to let go of the restaurant and just focus on the books. At that time, we went from 6,000 books to having 12,000 books, and now we’re up to 55,000.

How has business been since Borders closed its doors?

Ed: The biggest difference is that we’re seeing more residents coming in.

Cynthia: In the door, it’s always been about 50/50 visitors to residents, but now there are a lot more residents.

How does it feel to be the only bookstore on Kaua’i?

Ed: We’re extremely surprised. Now the West side is the literary capital of the island.

Cynthia: It wasn’t anything we ever had a goal for or ever thought of. We’re just as bummed as everyone else that Borders is closed. Once we were in business, we made a concerted effort and accomplished it to work with everybody who sells books. We were working together to find books for people. Now we send people to Costco for the new best-sellers.

The Justuses have fun and love what they do. Coco Zickos photo

Ed: And for all the new Hawaiian stuff, we send people to the Kaua’i Museum gift shop or the Kokee Museum gift shop.

Cynthia: And they send people to us all the time, too. It’s the spirit of working together.

Why do you do what you do?

Ed: Because it’s fun.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business?

Cynthia: There is never a dull moment here, ever. But our most pressing task is to try to get books out on the floor that we have. That’s our biggest challenge.

Ed: Seriously, that’s the hardest thing.

How do you measure success?

Cynthia: Being happy with what we’re doing and how much joy we can bring others.

What makes you get up and go to work every day?

Cynthia: We get to help people.

Ed: It’s a great business; it’s never boring and always entertaining. We get to meet really awesome people all the time from all over the world. I can’t imagine doing anything else. What makes it totally worth it is seeing how excited people are when they come in and find something they really like.

Tell us about the Hanapepe Friday Night Festival.

Ed: It has really grown and is really coming alive. It’s much more than just art it’s local music, lots of food vendors, local vendors it’s just really bustling. There are several hundred people who show up. It happens every week and goes from 6 to 9 p.m.

What are your plans for the future?

Ed: We’ve never had a plan. I have some ideas we’re not stuck to them, but they would be kind of cool if they happened. For the past two years, we’ve been looking for an East side location. And it would be great to have a Talk Story on every island, but it’s not really a plan. If it’s meant to be, it will.

3785 Hanapepe Road