A Life of Books

Never judge a book by its cover. Or a bookstore for that matter. One could drive by the Archives Bookstore on 2nd Street and never know what exists behind the windows that read "Used Books."

Wayne Stephens has the privilege of driving from Shawnee to Edmond in order to be surrounded by the many loves of his life.

"I love my job, and I love coming here each and every day. When I am here, I make it a point to learn something new each day," Stephens said. "On any particular day I might get great works of art, leather bound books from the 1800's or a box full of fifty cent romance novels. It's like Christmas everyday."

In 1975, in Enid, Oklahoma, Stephens knew a man who had spent much of his life accumulating more than a houseful of garage sale items, including toasters, buttons and books. There was more than a roomful of books, and Stephens made him an offer of $25 for the 500 books.

"And I feel like I have been trying to get rid of those 500 books ever since," Stephens said.

Within just a few years, Stephens opened his first store inside Heritage Park Mall with both used and new book sections. However, the high cost of mall rental space and the lack of sales forced the store to shut down.

Soon after, Stephens received a letter from McCrory's, which had recently bought the old TG&Y store inside Bryant Square, in Edmond. He was offered space, bookkeeping and utilities for 15% of total gross sales.

"It didn't take much thinking for me to realize that this was a good deal for a guy who had no money," Stephens said.

After opening up a small chain of four stores in Edmond, Oklahoma City, Norman and Shawnee, Stephens made the biggest decision for the future of his company.

"In December of 1995, I could see that the future of book sales was going to be online. So, I took off for several months and began my online bookstore with four thousand books," Stephens said. "I put these on, hoping that if I sold these I could hire someone to put books online on so I wouldn't have to."

Stephens' idea proved to be right. Today, Archives Books has an inventory of 100,000 books online, 50,000 dollar books inside the retail store at 1914 2nd street and over 50,000 books being processed at any time. In 2006, Archives sold, priced, donated, shipped and processed over 500,000 books. Archives ranks in the top 20 percent of all the online used book resellers.

"I sometimes have great ideas, but I'm not the best at carrying out these ideas," Stephens said. "You need a Ray Croc to start a McDonalds, but you need a CEO to run a McDonalds."

Stephens is referring to his two sons, Corey and Noel. According to Stephens, his sons are the reasons for the numbers adding up at the end of the month. They are the managers and Stephens says that both have the ability to do what he cannot.

"It's important to understand what you can and can't do. They are good in areas where I am not."

Stephens would be the first to tell you that a lot of men make the mistake of defining themselves by what they do. He lays claim to being a deacon at his church, a disciple, a husband, a father and a granddad, as well as a bookseller. Yet he emphasizes that if he lost his bookstore today he wouldn't lose his identity.

"However, I would be at a garage sale the very next day," he said laughing.

While dreaming of someday opening up a store with a million book inventory while struggling with the problem of figuring out a profitable way of selling 500 year old technology in books over today's technology of the Internet, Wayne Stephens has created a masterful beginning in Archives Books and has been able to keep it all in a proper perspective.

"Big things come from small beginnings," he said. If anybody would know, it would be Stephens.

For more information go to www.archivesinc.com or visit the local bookstore at 1914 East 2nd Street.

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