Couple purchases Escanaba bookstore; aims to keep it thriving

Jesse Traub leans agains the bookcart that rests on the sidewalk in front of Canterbury Book Store in Escanaba. He and his wife, Rebecca Bender, purchased the store in 2018.

By Ann Dallman
Rebecca Bender and Jesse Traub did not plan to run a bookstore but they have ended up as the proud owners and operators of the Canterbury Book Store in Escanaba.
The married couple met while in graduate school at Michigan State University where Rebecca studied civil engineering and Jesse earned his doctoral degree in plant breeding, genetics and bio technology.
Rebecca grew up in Escanaba and during a visit to her parents the couple noticed that Canterbury Books was for sale. Owner Shirley Hivala wanted to retire and had placed the bookstore on the market.
“She had been the owner since 1984 and wanted to pass it on to someone in the community. Six months later we were back visiting and noticed that no one had picked it up and we said to each other, ‘let’s do this,’” Jesse said.
The couple packed up and moved to Escanaba, and Canterbury Books had new owners. In addition to operating the store, Rebecca works for a private engineering company and Jesse is coordinator for an agricultural operations program that is sponsored by Michigan State University, and based at Bay College.
The two had never worked in a bookstore before but wanted to see the Canterbury Book Store remain in the local community.
“We learned a lot from Shirley and her husband, Roy. They were very helpful during the transition,” Jesse said. “They’re very accomplished and taught us a lot. She gave us the benefit of the doubt considering she had 35 years of bookstore experience and we had none.”
Jesse and Rebecca agreed that they are able to sell the types of books they want. Carrying books for all ages and for customers of all ages is a major motivator.
“Some of the books we both like, some I like and some Rebecca likes and some our customers like,” Jesse added. “Our reading tastes are very different from each other. If I like it, someone else will like it. We like to stock books we think people will like.” Categories offered include romance novels, in-depth historical biographies, space opera sci-fi, high-brow classics, graphic novels, crime thrillers and more.
The store stocks new releases as well as gently used books. Sometimes they come across a rare and collectible book, often by happenstance.
“We don’t seek them out but seem to just trip over them,” Jesse said and smiled. “We’re still getting to know the scene and what’s particular about each book,” Rebecca added. Popular purchases are picture books and young adult books, usually purchased by retirees as gifts for grandchildren and family members…

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