When customers open the door in the little strip of a mall, they are transported to a readers’ respite.
Terry Gant, who grew up in Donelson, opened Walls of Books, a hidden charm in the Paddocks shopping area in Mt. Juliet.
The used bookstore is a bit of a throwback in a world of Kindles and ebooks. But, brick-and-mortar bookstores, with stuffed shelves as high as a ladder, are making a strong comeback for literature lovers who long to feel the heft of a book, turn actual pages and perhaps have a tangible keepsake of a beloved piece of the written word. Its gently used books beckon.
True to its name, the Mt. Juliet used bookstore has wall-to-wall books with an extensive fiction section and a generous helping of young adult titles. The best part, according to Gant, is it has a buy-back used book option that can go toward store credit, and books bought at Walls of Books can be sold back to the store. Walls of Books also has a parents’ dream selection of educational toys to give children something fun and challenging to tackle in between virtual and real classes.
With public libraries shuttered for several months because of COVID-19 and an abundance of time, bored, worried and cloistered pandemic people desperately searched out alternative options to simply escape in an intriguing tale, learn new things, self-teach or beef up on knowledge. Walls of Books continues to fill the niche nicely.
The Donelson native is 34 and was always an avid reader.
“I’ve been a reader all my life,” said Gant, a husband and dad of a 2-year-old boy. “My dad was a big reader. My parents always gave me whatever book I wanted but didn’t toys.”
As a child, Gant loved “The Lord of The Rings” series, and as he got older, his interests shifted.
“I just like physical books,” he said.
And no, he does not own a Kindle and can’t fathom a time he ever would.
Gant parlayed his love of literature into a career as a teacher after a pit stop as a Metro Nashville police officer in the Hermitage precinct.
Not to let a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in business administration burn a hole in his pocket, he became a teacher of the Omnibus Great Books curriculum for seventh through 12th grades that teaches students lessons from the past to live in the present.
“It’s basically history, literature and theology wrapped into one course,” Gant said.
He taught about the Constitution, honed in on Ernest Hemmingway classics and more. But something was missing. He’s the type of guy who wants to get lost in the stacks, run his fingers over titles and hole-away with either fantasy, self-help or fab fiction.
Pair that with an innate desire to own his own business, Gant’s new path was one of entrepreneurship. He opened with his first Walls of Books store in Cookeville. It went well, and when he scouted for a second location, his hometown area was a no brainer.
“I wanted to go home,” he said. “Mt. Juliet was the perfect place.”
And, as things go with the whirlwind, scary effects of COVID-19 swirling around, his targeted opening date of March to launch Walls of Books at the Paddocks came to a screeching halt.
“We are all ready to go, stocked and everything, and we just had to delay until things got better,” he said.
May was the magic month when he opened the doors to the 2,400-square-foot Walls of Books in Mt. Juliet with more than 40,000 books. Ninety-nine percent of them are used, said Gant.
Surprisingly, the average browser would not know the books are used, as they are in great shape.
“We have thousands of selections,” Gant said. “[We have] adult fiction, teen, middle grade, non-fiction and audio books.”
There’s a 120-square-foot children’s section, with a reading nook and bright yellow chairs. Much space is allocated to showcase educational toys that are flying off the shelves during the time of homeschooling and togetherness. There are Melissa & Doug toys, family games, STEM games, models, UGears, Plus Plus one-shape puzzles and more to inspire the sponge-minds of little ones.
Parents are figuring out their children don’t necessarily have to be cemented to a desk or makeshift home classroom to learn.
“Kids learn by doing,” Gant said. “They like to build and explore through reading.”
Parents are seeking whatever they can to entice their children to explore new worlds and their own backyards.
“We are doing really well during lockdown and beyond,” Gant said. “People needed something to do during lockdown and found themselves trying to occupy themselves. Something worthwhile. There’s just so many Netflix series to watch or YouTube videos to see. People needed, and still need, intellectual stimulation.”
People come to Gant’s store to learn about things with creative books at their fingertips and find low prices. When a gently used book is bought, there’s no timeline to return. Take as long as wanted and refer back.
What are people browsing and buying these days? You guessed it, how to make bread, especially artisan breads. The books are at an uptick, said Gant. Also, other cookbook sales are through the roof. Many go straight to the gardening section.
Best sellers are a fun option and a fraction of the cost of a new edition. Gant makes sure to showcase seasonal selections with spooky books for children on tap.
Brian Hoffmenster and his wife, Renee, came from Lebanon on Oct. 24 to visit the bookstore donning masks. Brian Hoffmenster, with cellphone in hand, headed to the “R” author section.
A fan of J.D. Robb – pseudonym for No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts – Hoffmenster looked at his phone to see the list of Robb books he still hasn’t read.
“I am looking for five books by her and thought this would be a neat place to find them,” he said as he looked over the selections.
He was pretty successful.
Another customer, a grandma, asked Gant if he had any books on mythology for her 9-year-old grandchild who lives in Lascassas.
The lucky little girl will soon have the first of three Goddess Girls books in the mail soon. The series Grant recommended was written by Joan Hollub and Suzanne Williams, who put a modern spin on classic myths.
Gant can answer any questions, most likely lead any reader to their sought-after read and introduce literature lovers to a treasure trove of escape at his hidden gem of a store.
Walls of Books
The Paddocks at 300 Pleasant Grove Road, Suite 340
Owner: Terry Gant
Hours: Mondays-Saturdays from10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Facebook: Walls of Books Mt. Juliet