Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
When people hear the name Bookworks, Shannon Guinn-Collins says the response is always the same.
“Everyone says to us, ‘Oh my god, I love Bookworks!'” Guinn-Collins said.
For almost 40 years, Bookworks has been a staple of the Los Ranchos community. Founded in 1984 by Nancy Rutland, the bookstore has hosted literary stars like Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Bob Odenkirk, the star of “Better Call Saul,” even hosted book club meetings at the shop.
In 2010, the store was bought by Bookworks employees Danielle Foster and Wyatt Wegrzyn.
And now, it’s changing owners once more. Guinn-Collins and her mother, Nancy Guinn, with the help of several investors around Albuquerque, bought the business and will be taking over in January. The purchase price was not disclosed.
“I think it’s time for the next chapter,” Foster said. “Dig into my to-be-read pile.”
Foster said she wants to spend more time with family, including three children and a grandfather who is soon to celebrate his 100th birthday. She and Wegrzyn brought Bookworks to its current location next to Flying Star at 4022 Rio Grande NW.
Guinn-Collins grew up down the street from Bookworks. She remembers going to a reading at Bookworks, where Brian Jacques, the author of the “Redwall” series, was speaking.
“I remember (his) reading here when I was a kid and bringing in this copy of my favorite book that I loved to literally pieces for him to sign,” Guinn-Collins said. Guinn-Collins currently works as a project manager at Presbyterian Health Care Services.
Guinn, a palliative care physician who retired this summer, said her friends were taking bets on how quickly she would leave retirement. As a lover of books and longtime patron of Bookworks, Guinn wanted to help keep an independent bookstore alive.
“I grew up in Albuquerque, so I can name all of the independent bookstores that have been in this community that are no longer there,” Guinn said. “Independent bookshops have long been places to go to learn, to be in an environment that feels good.”
For Guinn’s friend and longtime Bookworks customer Jennifer Cornish, it was surprising to see Guinn get into business just six months after retiring. But, given Guinn’s love of books, it made sense, Cornish said.
“Every time you would go over to their house, it would be talking about books,” Cornish said. “That’s always been our primary connection as friends. This is a completely natural evolution for them … as soon as I heard it, I felt ‘This was absolutely right.'”
Cornish has been shopping at Bookworks for decades. As a mother, it was her go-to for children’s books. Now, as a grandmother, she shops for her seven grandkids there.
She continued to patronize the bookstore during the COVID-19 pandemic, after it reopened. Bookworks closed its doors for about a year and a half due to the virus.
Although Cornish had been reading books on her Kindle, she started craving physical books during the pandemic, and would sit outside of Bookworks waiting for book deliveries.
“It was a place where I would go and get the sort of book nourishment that I needed during that time,” Cornish said.
When she heard that her friend was planning to buy the business, Cornish invested in the store.
“When the opportunity came to be a co-investor … it was just, I don’t know, a really emotional connection,” Cornish said. “Locally owned businesses in general are the lifeblood of a community, but bookstores are the kind of place that feeds our minds and our souls. It’s very important to me.”
During a typical year, Bookworks hosted more than 300 events. Wegrzyn said his favorite events were those where readers got to meet their literary heroes.
“It was one of those events where someone’s eyes would turn into saucers when the author showed up,” Wegrzyn said. “That was a joy to be able to facilitate that for our customers.”
Guinn said her favorite Bookworks event was a meet-and-greet with sci-fi and fantasy writer Ursula Le Guin. Books have always been an essential part of Guinn’s life.
“I grew up in a library,” Guinn said. “When times were tough for me as a child, that’s where I lived. … I can remember being a teenager in Albuquerque, taking the bus down to the old library on Central and Edith, which was quite a beautiful building. So books are survival for me.”
The shop will be closed for a few days at the end of January and the beginning of February for updates. Although Guinn-Collins and Guinn are planning a few changes, like updating the website, expanding the inventory, and debuting a book subscription program, Wegrzyn said the focus is “grabbing the baton and running.” All 10 employees, including the current manager, will remain at Bookworks.
“We’re just so grateful for being about to take (Rutland’s) dream where it is now,” Wegrzyn said. “It is miraculous.”