Niche bookstore to feature collectibles, sci-fi, mysteries, non-fiction
Mid-Columbia book collectors will have new shelves to comb this summer.
Longtime book collector and retiring Bechtel radiological engineering health supervisor, Steven Woolfolk, is planning the construction of a 6,000-square-foot bookstore at 2240 Robertson Drive in Richland near Horn Rapids.
The new store’s name: Xenophile Bibliopole & Armorer, Chronopolis.
“It’s a lot more than your everyday bookstore,” said Woolfolk, who explained his store’s focus will be on books of “higher collectability, original art, movie posters, play sets from the forties and fifties,” and even props from movie sets — including “James Bond” — that he’s collected.
There also will be an emphasis on the genres of science fiction, mysteries, non-fiction and some fantasy, he said.
“I collect sci-fi, primarily,” he said, and added that business partner, Brian Sheldon, is the mystery novel aficionado.
Sheldon is the former owner of the now defunct Sheldon Library, which used to be in Richland’s Uptown Shopping Center, and specialized in used and rare books.
Woolfolk has sold books at the Tri-Cities’ annual RadCon science fiction/fantasy convention in Pasco for several years, but said he’s always wanted to start a bookstore of his own.
Now that he’s nearing retirement, he’s decided to make that dream a reality. Woolfolk has been collecting books since 1975, around the time he began his work at the Hanford site.
“I have the largest sci-fi collection this side of the Cascades,” Woolfolk said, adding that several years back, the Tri-City Herald ran a photo of him with his expansive collection, which now fills a 30-by-40-foot warehouse in Benton City, in addition to his personal garage.
Woolfolk said he already has shelving for his new shop in storage—purchased from the Richland Public Library and the Richland Hastings Books, Music & Video store during its store closing sale in 2016.
He said much of what he’s accumulated in his warehouse will be used as inventory to help get the store started. In addition to selling, Woolfolk said Xenophile also will buy books, paperbacks, magazines, pulps, toys and movie posters, as well as science fiction, fantasy, nuclear, atomic, and collectable items and art.
He said once Xenophile is established, the store will eventually come to specialize in rare copies, such as first editions and other printings, which can sell for thousands of dollars. Woolfolk said Xenophile also will have some of its books listed for sale online.
He said the shop’s focus on rare books and other collectables prompted him to seek real estate off the beaten path.
“It won’t make a lot of money, so the property and costs have to be reasonable. … I’m not expecting people to be walking by on the sidewalk and come in to shop,” Woolfolk said.
He needed a larger piece of land to accommodate the store, but couldn’t afford the half-million dollars that parcels in town were fetching. Woolfolk said $50,000 for land off Highway 240 was a much more agreeable price.
Due to the rising value of real estate, Woolfolk said he has received several unsolicited offers for the property in Benton City where he stores his books.
In the future, he said he might sell it and build a new, more conveniently located warehouse behind Xenophile, to house the books and his book and movie poster repair workshop.
Currently though, his focus is on completing the initial $507,801 project, which is to be built by Cleary Building Group of Hermiston. It includes a $130,000 pole building.
Woolfolk said he is serving as general contractor and will use several local sub-contractors.
Though Xenophile will primarily attract a particular subset of customers, rare books aren’t all the shop will have to offer.
In addition to the 5,760 square-foot store, Xenophile also will feature a 250- to 300-square-foot conference room, which will be made available to area book clubs and other groups. The room will be outfitted with ample audio-visual equipment and webcam capabilities so club members or special guests can participate remotely.
As treasurer of the Friends of the Richland Public Library group, Woolfolk said he is familiar with the limitations of meeting spaces available at local libraries and aims to provide an improved space for groups to meet.
He also said he hopes to have a space where local artists can showcase and sell their work.
At Xenophile, Woolfolk also will feature permanent and rotating displays. One of these will be a Manhattan Project and nuclear history display, inspired by him as a third generation Hanford worker.
Woolfolk emphasized that he is not trying to compete with the nearby B Reactor Visitor Center, but instead to simply provide points of interest to those visiting his shop.
Other displays will include select volumes from his personal collection of rare books, such as illustrated copies of “Don Quixote,” and other “unusual and interesting things,” including an original Osborne 1 portable computer—one of the first commercially successful microcomputers.
He said Sheldon is an avid Water Follies memorabilia collector, so there may be a display about that as well.
“It’s about getting people excited about collecting,” Woolfolk said.
Meaning behind the name
Bookstore owner Steven Woolfolk explains the story behind the store’s name:
Xenophile – An early science fiction and pulp collectors’ magazine, and it means people attracted to the strange (e.g., aliens, creatures, strangers)
Bibliophile – Means book store
Armorer – Refers to suppliers of ray-guns, space ports, playset armies and maybe swords
Chronopolis – A city in time, probably unstable