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Kauai’s Last Bookstore Standing

Abhi Sharma
CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Bookstores used to be all over the islands, and all over the country. There are fewer now than there used to be, and on Kauai there is only one left – the Talk Story Bookstore.

You’ll find Talk Story bookstore in a Plantation-era building in Hanapepe, alongside art galleries, a bakery and a spice shop. It’s now the only bookstore on Kauai. When owner Edgar Justus moved to Hawaii from Virginia 15 years ago, he knew only that he and a friend wanted to start a business of some kind. Fate connected them with the owners of a building who were eager to have a tenant, so much so  that they offered one month’s free rent.

What Justus had going at the time was a collection of 3,000 secondhand items he had gathered to resell on eBay, including a huge number of books, thus, the business was born in 2004 as Talk Story Books, Coffee and Curiosities. It wasn’t easy at first — for a month Justus lived in his van to funnel every penny into keeping the store open.

The store has since moved to its current location and dropped the curiosities. Along the way, other bookstores closed on Kauai, including Borders in 2012, leaving Justus with an opportunity to bring in new books as well, which he says doubled revenues. His wife, Yuriko, has spearheaded branded merchandise and the store’s social media marketing, further growing the business.

Despite competition from online book sales and digital books, Justus is optimistic about the future, saying, “Books and reading are a necessity for people’s mental sanity. What we read is who we are.”

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
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