Resurrected Books turns its final page in Reedley

Reedley bookstore in First United Methodist Church closes the chapter on operations after a decade of service

Kathy Duerksen selects books at Resurrected Books in Reedley May 30, 2024. Duerksen took advantage of the bookstore's final day in business, filling up multiple bags of novels in exchange for a donation to First United Methodist Church, which operated the bookstore for 10 years. (Serena Bettis)
Darren Fraser
Published May 31, 2024  • 
9:00 am

REEDLEY – After 10 years of selling used books, Resurrected Books in Reedley has closed its doors.

Sean Stephens volunteered at the store; his wife, Amanda Bulls-Stephens, managed it. First United Methodist Church owned and operated it. Despite the name and despite the fact the church owned it, Resurrected Books was not a religious bookstore, though, of course, it did sell faith-based materials.

“It has everything except pornography and hate,” Stephens said.

The store opened in 2014; it closed this year on May 30.

Stephens said the bookstore closed because of changes with the church; notably, its planned merger with another church.

Resurrected Books was Reedley’s only dedicated bookstore.

A BOOK SALE THAT EVOLVED INTO A BOOKSTORE

Stephen’s mother-in-law started the program. Each year, First United would have a book sale on President’s Day weekend.

“The books would be stored in an outbuilding and each year we’d bring them over to the social hall,” he said. “We’d have desserts and people would come in and browse through the books. And then we’d put it all back.”

Stephens said many of the individuals involved in the sale were elderly. Hauling the books back and forth took its toll.

“Everybody was so old that moving these books out of the building and into the hall was just an immense project,” he said. “We started thinking, ‘We have some unused Sunday school rooms. We could convert them to a bookstore.’ Everybody breathed a sigh of relief. They didn’t want the mission to go away, but they were also tired and just not able to do it anymore. The annual book sale became the bookstore.”

And what was the mission?

“Putting the books in the hands of those that need them,” said Stephens.

Stephens said the store was winding down.

“When we started, we were open three days a week – Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We would do special events on weekends. Trying to draw in people,” he said. “The entire bookstore was a mission project for the church.”

Every book in the store’s inventory was donated.

“We sold them dirt cheap,” said Stephens.

The store was staffed by volunteers, many of them elderly. However, COVID took its toll.

Resurrected Books offers discounted used books behind First United Methodist Church in Reedley May 30, 2024. The store closed its doors on Thursday after 10 years in operation. (Serena Bettis)

“We were closed during COVID,” he said. “When we came back, several of our volunteers had died. One was 96.”

Regarding trends in the habits of book buyers, Stephens said he was surprised self-help books were still the top sellers. He also said people often came in looking for obscure authors or looking to get what they could from a specific author.

“I wasn’t in the store for this one sale,” he said, “but somebody came in and bought a whole bunch of James Patterson books to fill out the collection she already had. So, now she has everything he’s ever written.”

COME IN FOR A CHAT

Stephens said he will miss his regulars.

“We had some people we really enjoyed seeing who would make our day,” he said. “We had a farmer who would bring fruit each time he came in. He was looking for history books about Reedley. When we found something, we’d set it aside and call him. So many people donating books are from here in Reedley, it wasn’t a surprise we’d get these types of books. He’d come in and bring us a box of oranges or nectarines or something like that. And have a nice chat.”

Stephens said that connection with the community is what he will miss most about the store.

Resurrected Books frequent shopper Kathy Suerksen looks through inventory at the used bookstore in Reedley May 30, 2024. The bookstore, operated by First United Methodist Church, closed after 10 years in operation. (Serena Bettis)

“We had several customers like that. They’d come in for the social part of it. They might buy a book, they might not. But we would have a nice time with them,” he said.

He added, “As far as books went, we sold a fair number. We also gave away quite a few. Our purpose was to serve a mission in the town. And sometimes serving that mission meant, ‘Hey. Do you guys want these books? Take these books.’ It was not a big deal.”

The store is working with a local book recycler to dispose of its inventory.

“Recycling a book is complicated,” he said. “You have to take the covers off and you have to take the glued binding off. Each book is a project. We’ll sell what’s sellable on Amazon and donate a bunch to prison systems.” What he does not sell he will turn into pulp for recycling.

When asked if he and his wife have plans to open their own bookstore, Stephens laughed.

“No. It’s a ton of work. I’ve talked to other people. They had plenty of time to read until they ran a bookstore,” he said.

Darren Fraser
Reporter