PANAMA CITY — Books of every shape and size, color and topic sat haphazardly on tables and shelves Monday at the Ageless Book Shoppe as book lovers flipped through pages. The store is closing for good Thursday, after about 30 years. Want to shop? The address is 722 Bunkers Cove Road, Panama City, FL 32401-3920, (850) 763-5264.
“A lot of rare books have gone through here,” Ran Humphreys said.
Humphreys started the bookstore in the early 1980s and turned it over to his then-wife Ann Cook around 1989. The store held more than 100,000 books and specialized in out-of-print, first-edition or special-edition books. The couple divorced in 1997 after 22 years of marriage, and Cook continued to run the shop.
Cook loved books, her daughter Laura Cooper said. “She always had a passion for books — rare books,” Cooper said. “We always had books growing up.”
The store has been a mainstay in Panama City. Cook donated books to prison inmates, was active in a local book club and was a long-time teacher. She usually read three books at once, Cooper said. “She enjoyed this place,” Cooper said. “It’s kept her going all these years.”
About a year ago, Cook had a stroke and then a few months ago, she had a heart attack. The store remained closed for several months, but the lease is up and Humphreys said the store has run its course.
“This will all be over here in a few days,” Humphreys said.
Cook, 87, is in a nursing home and can no longer work in the store. Cook, who has a full-time job, plans to sell as many books as possible until Thursday. Humphreys is helping man the store and Cooper is offering special rates. Leftover books may be donated to charities or thrown in a trash bin, she said.
Will Bonner was among about 50 people walking around the store and up and down the creaking stairs Monday. He ran his hands over random books and plucked some from top shelves.
“They don’t make bookstores like this anymore,” Bonner said. “This one’s unique.”
Bonner flipped through the pages of old hardbacks, looking for personal effects former owners might have tucked between the pages. He said he’d found Confederate bills, letters and photographs in books at other stores. At Cook’s store, Bonner said he wants old pirate books or books on guns.
Bill and Rebecca Valle picked through National Geographic issues and prowled for technical books and books on cultural differences. Bill Valle said he was looking for special finds.
“You never know what you are going to find, and we are avid readers,” Bill Valle said. “A little, unique treasure pops up here and there.”
McKenzie Richards said he wanted books by Stephen King, but he was carrying “Elephants and Castles” by Alfred Duggan. The 20-year-old Gulf Coast Community College student said he is interested in classic literature and is thinking about getting a degree to teach English.
Most patrons visiting were long-time customers who either read about the store closing or happened to see the door open and stopped by. Humphreys said some had been customers for 15 years. Bonner said he stopped by off and on for the past eight years. When people wanted a niche bookstore that catered to the hard-to-find book, they came to the Ageless Book Shoppe, Humphreys said.
“I like to think this store is unique,” he said.
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