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Small business survivors on the Central Coast

In today’s digital age, it might be surprising to find a pre-owned bookstore not only still in business but just as popular as ever. Nan’s Pre-Owned Books in Grover Beach has been a staple in the community from the day it opened 30 years ago.

“Our whole family read and read; we used used bookstores and I felt comfortable there. We studied [the business] for about a year and I opened up in a little old house down the street with 7,000 books and now I have about 60 thousand,” explains owner, Nan Fowler.

It’s not just Nan’s wide selection of books that keeps people coming back – customers like Mollie Hopper say they enjoy the one-on-one conversations you can’t really find when buying books online.

“[I like] their friendliness, customer service, their ability to give you a good deal on books and I love the fact
That you can get credit for bringing books in,” Hopper says.

Nan says word of mouth has been a great promoter of her store along with her unique signage outside.

“Our probably number one advertising is the reader board sign which we change the first of each month and it always just has some pithy pun or something like this that has nothing to do with what’s in the store or what’s on sale,” Fowler tells us.

Nan works alongside her daughter Kristi, granddaughter Kassi and their cat Kallie. While Kassi is part of the millennial generation, she believes bookstores like her grandmother’s will always be around.

“Most of my friends have Kindles, e-readers and all those things but there are still those people who love holding the book and smelling the book,” Kassi says.

“When you come into Nan’s Pre-Owned Books, you can tell me that I read Daniel Steele and I can tell you what authors write the same way if that’s the kind of thing you like. So you can’t do that on a Kindle — you can browse but you can’t have someone saying: “This is really a good book” or “You won’t like that, it’s too much sex,” Nan explains.

And because of the owner’s personal touch, Nan’s Pre-Owned Bookstore doesn’t plan on going anywhere.

“I don’t think reading is ever going out of style. People talk about the demise of libraries and things like that but I just don’t believe it,” says Fowler.

Jack’s Restaurant in Old Town Orcutt has its own recipe for success. Folks there have been cooking omelets and homestyle recipes since the doors opened in 1946.

New owners Chris and Terri Salazar took over two years ago and they’re eager to continue serving the dishes that have been on the menu for years, to keep their regulars coming back.

“All the old customers support us.. I mean we get customers that come in every day – a lot of people come in two times a day which is insane.. I could never imagine that,” explains co-owner of Jack’s, Chris Salazar.

Buying a 50 year restaurant did come with some problems however, making the last two years a bit of an uphill battle.

“When I came here I noticed a lot of lack of flavor and they just took a lot of short cuts, which a lot of restaurants do, to cut costs on different things, so I fixed that. Our quality is little better and people noticed that right away,” Salazar says.

One way the Salazars have stepped up quality is by ordering as many local ingredients as possible.

“We get our bread from Edna’s Bakery in San Luis Obispo, every day. Same with our produce, we get it from the local produce companies which is one of the advantages of living here – we have all this available which is nice to be able to utilize,” Chris explains.

Customers at Jack’s are quick to tout how much they love the food which fills the new owners with pride.
For them, it’s like their home away from home.

“I like coming here because they have good food, plenty of it and the breakfast they serve is just gorgeous,” says frequent customer, Geraldine Kush.

“I just love the homemade fresh pies. [Today] I’m having apple pie and ice cream [and] it’s [just] a great place for pies,” Ronald Carolus tells us, as he stopped in on his way down from Bakersfield.

“The cool thing is I can see people from the kitchen so I’ll get a thumbs up or good job or I’ll see people around telling me I did a good job and that’s what it’s all about,” says Salazar.

While owning a small business is difficult and the growing pains can be challenging, both Nan Fowler and Chris Salazar have advice for those wanting to set up shop.

“Realism.. You have to be frugal and persevere. You have to keep at it – you can’t just say, the first month or first six months that you’re not gonna make it – get out there and push it and keep at it,” Fowler advises.

“Anything it is you have to be ready to give 110% and you have to be familiar with the area with the other businesses – it doesn’t have to be a restaurant but have experience in it,” Salazar says.

Both Nan’s Pre-Owned Books and Jack’s Restaurant are opened seven days a week.

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