Karli Fussell grew up with a fondness for reading, but she never imagined owning and operating a bookstore of her own.
That is until the opportunity presented itself a few years ago when previous owners of Basin Book Trader, Rick and Marla Edge, retired and urged her to carry on in their absence.
Being a regular customer at the store for years, Fussell’s friends and family almost immediately knew it was the right opportunity was for her. She, on the other hand, took a little convincing.
“This was like not even on the radar,” Fussell told H&N. “All my kids were in school and I was kind of looking for something to do next, but I didn’t know what that would look like or what that would be. I was just in the right place at the right time, because mostly, I was a huge fan of the bookstore."
She felt less than qualified at first, though.
“I didn’t know if I could do that and my only I guess job qualification was I love books,” she said.
That love of books stemmed from a childhood growing up in Klamath Falls where reading a book was an escape away from a house full of sisters.
“That was kind of my happy place, holing up in my room and reading a book,” Fussell said. “I’m the reader of the family.”
Her mother helped instill and cultivate a love for reading in her youth, a fondness that she has kept to this day.
“It builds character. You go on adventures and trips and journeys and stuff that you don’t do in real life." Fussell said. “Reading to kids, that’s kind of one of the only ways you can instill character traits into your children is through books."
The Edges, the previous owners, saw this love for books and took her under their wing, mentoring her as she transitioned to ownership.
“They came alongside me big time and said this isn’t some big, scary thing,” Fussell said. “You can do this.”
“It definitely takes other people pouring into you,” she said.
Encouragement from friends and family helped her overcome her doubts about running a business.
“We can encourage women to do something out of their comfort zone,” she said. “Don’t tell someone they can’t do something, tell them they can.”
As a mother of three, she likes that her kids see her working a job she loves.
“I always tell them, you have to love your job otherwise it’s not worth it,” Fussell said. “It’s definitely my happy place, and I feel like it’s exactly where I was supposed to be, even though I never thought that’s what I would do, it’s kind of been perfect for me.”
Shaping the store
As owner and operator, Fussell set to work making the store reflective of the community and a place people could feel at home.
“I wanted it to be a place where the community could gather,” Fussell said. “Yes, it’s a community bookstore, but I want it to be where homeschool groups can come and do their homework and people can come and we can do the craft nights ... I have women come and share coffee on the couches and just visit."
The first part of the store she redesigned was the kid’s corner, with parents and their kiddos in mind.
“I want them to have their own place where they can color and they can look at books and they feel comfortable to where (the parent) can walk across the store and look at another book while they’re kind of entertained,” she said.
She wanted it to be a cozy, welcoming and warm space. It had to be a place you wanted to come and hang out and not feel like you are in a rush.
Taking over the a known as a gathering place didn’t come without its challenges – especially in 2020.
In the spring, when COVID-19 arrived, Fussell pivoted to offering curbside pickup and home deliveries, including to assisted living facilities and other individuals who couldn’t leave their homes. She never had to fully close the store, but at one point closed the lobby area.
“We were able to think outside the box and try something new,” she said.
She said the bookstore was able to offer an alternative to Netflix and help families spending more time than usual with each other find some entertainment. Fussell plans to continue offering home deliveries and curbside service to those who need it.
At the beginning of the pandemic, she also was the only woman to serve on a local small business panel that discussed how to navigate the health crisis.
She wants to use her position at the bookstore to also serve as an advocate for parents.
“I try to keep up on the books that parents have to get, have to look for,” Fussell said.
She’s also noticed an increase in customers bringing in newer books for trade, which only grows the inventory.
“They get to trade books with everybody in the community and they get it cheaper than retail,” Fussell said.
Fussell said she believes the success of a bookstore in these times is how much community support they can capture.
It’s more accessible than ever to simply download books or order them online, Fussell believes Klamath Falls stands behind her and her mission.
“The community is huge in supporting the bookstore and that’s the only reason that it still exists,” she said. “People say bookstores are a dying thing … Yeah, if you’re in the wrong community."