You've got to go forward," said Scott Naugle, owner of Pass Christian Books in Pass Christian, Miss., as he prepares to reopen a business that was literally swept away last summer by Hurricane Katrina. "We've never found anything associated with the store, and it was in a cement building," he said.
Naugle will reopen four-year-old Pass Christian Books in a 720-sq.-ft. location—about a third of its previous size—five miles north, away from the sea. The town it serves has also shrunk, its population falling to 2,000 from 8,000 last summer. The revived store will be located next to a restaurant in one of two adjoining buildings in a mini-business area. A gift shop, potter, community center and beauty salon are going into the other building.
"We're shooting for a slow opening on October 9," said Naugle, who expects to begin moving merchandise in this week. "Since we're starting from ground zero, it will be slow until we actually have books on the shelves," he said. The store's used inventory is gone, so Pass Christian will open with new books, which accounted for about 65% of pre-Katrina sales. Naugle plans to continue to stock Mississippi-related titles and, of course, Katrina books, along with literary fiction, history, cookbooks and children's titles.
Since Katrina struck, Naugle has relied on PassChristianBooks. com and an e-mail list of customers, as well as hosting book events in rented facilities in Gulfport, Miss., to keep the store going sans walls, floors and roof. "I'm a strong advocate of having a Web site and keeping it current," said Naugle. He said publishers have been supportive as he works to rebuild the business. "After the storm, they were very good, saying take your time about repaying. Over the past year, we've received many boxes of books from publishers that hoped we'd put them on our shelves. And we will."
Naugle said he's learned patience as a result of the storm. He doesn't complain about Katrina wrecking havoc with his business plan—or his home. "Last year would have been a good year for us," he said. "We had our inventory where we wanted it to be, about 10,000 new and used books." As for his house, Naugle was able to move in shortly after Katrina—with a tarp for a roof.