In the three decades since Sandy Jaffe assumed the assets and liabilities of a small regional wholesaler, which he renamed The Booksource, the St. Louis, Mo.—based company has grown into a $42-million-a-year operation. Founded in 1974, Booksource has no intention of slowing its growth, but Jaffe is preparing to hand the reins to his children.

To kick off its 30th anniversary year, The Booksource opened a 22,000-sq.-ft. facility in Fresno, Calif., which can provide next-day and second-day delivery of new and backlist books to customers on the West Coast. With the closing of Bookpeople's wholesale division in mid-March, Booksource is now the only regional wholesaler in the state. "This was not a long-term strategic plan," Jaffe told PW. "We went out in October to find the location and by January 10, we were shipping." Although Hudson News's purchase of W.H. Smith's West Coast airport stores provided the impetus to go West—Hudson News became Booksource's first California client—the company will mount a direct-mail campaign to independents in the coming weeks. "We didn't start promoting into the independent market right away," explained Jaffe, "because we wanted to be comfortable that we could give good service."

At almost exactly the same time, The Booksource took over a 14,000-sq.-ft. facility directly across the street from its 67,000-sq-.ft. warehouse and headquarters in St. Louis. The new facility will hold inventory for greeting card, poster, calendar and stationery publisher Peaceable Kingdom Press in Berkeley, Calif., which Booksource acquired in 2000. "We were looking for a greater profitability," said Jaffe. "Publishing was mainly a way to offset the extremely small margins to the retail marketplace." In the intervening four years, it has, in fact, been quite profitable; sales have doubled. By making it a stand-alone business, with its own warehouse, Jaffe anticipates even stronger sales growth.

The Booksource's other line, binding paperbacks as hardcovers for schools and libraries, San Val Inc., which has locations in Steelville and Farmington, Mo., already operates as a wholly owned subsidiary. While it ranks third in size after the company's two primary areas—wholesaling to retailers and to the educational market—it is the most profitable division, according to Jaffe.

As for what's ahead, Jaffe doesn't rule out further expansion on the West Coast. For now, however, he's in the midst of implementing a succession plan that began a few years ago with the appointment of his daughter Donna (as general manager of Peaceable Kingdom) and sons Gary (COO and president of The Booksource) and Neil (COO and president of San Val). "Within the next two years," said Jaffe, who just turned 65 and retains the title of CEO, "I will completely remove myself from the business. I don't want to hang around if I'm not needed."