Half Price Books is very good at what it does: selling used books. Since opening its first store on Northwest Highway in 1972, the company has cornered the local used book market and opened more than 100 stores in 16 states, while managing to retain the welcoming feel of a family operation.
Now that they have the book-selling thing down to a science, the company plans to try its hand at something new: real estate development.
The Advocate's Brittany Nunn reports today that Half Price Books is building a shopping center across Shadybrook Drive from its flagship Northwest Highway location, on the corner that currently houses a Starbucks.
Plans for the development began to take shape in 2006, executive vice president Kathy Doyle Thomas tells Unfair Park, with the demolition of NorthPark East.
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"When that was happening, we made the decision that we'd better control our neighborhood, because we didn't know what was happening," she says. Better to build your own development and manage it how you choose than let someone else come in and plunk down something run-down or seedy. Given the current state of Vickery Meadow, that's a distinct possibility.
Instead, Thomas envisions a mix of shops and restaurants. The Starbucks is staying, but no other deals have been signed and Thomas declined to give specifics about potential tenants. She said the emphasis will be on locally owned businesses of the type that appeal to Half Price Books customers.
None of this means that the company's getting out of the book business. But are they actually getting into the real estate development business, or are they just hoping to spruce up their little corner of Northwest Highway? We'll have to see.
"It's our first [real estate development project]," Thomas says. "I'm not sure if it's going to be our last. We'll see how this one goes."