Huntington Books, which celebrated its 14th year in business this month, is moving to a new Mandan location at 105½ Third Ave. N.W., with a tentative opening of March 1.
The move is a big undertaking, according to store owner Sue Huntington, who said an estimated 250,000 paperbacks and hardcovers call the existing location, 218 W. Main St., home.
On Nov. 23, Huntington was told she had 90 days to vacate the space, which she leased from the city for more than a decade. All of the books and the bookshelves that fill the store must be removed by Feb. 24.
“If God didn’t provide a place for us that was big enough and that we could afford, we would’ve had to go out of business,” she said. “But he did provide a place for us. We’re happy.”
According to Mandan Business Development Director Ellen Huber, the city acquired the Main Street property in 2005, after the fuel spill, to demonstrate that extraction wells and piping could be located in the basement of buildings in the impacted area.
Huntington, along with Dot Frank, offered to buy the building for $29,325 after the city issued a request for proposal for the purchase and redevelopment of the property in September. One of the RFP requirements indicated a minimum price of $100,000.
Mike and Brittany Kennedy, in partnership with Randy and Cathy Ehlis, submitted the winning bid of $100,000 to purchase the city-owned property, with plans to turn it into a restaurant, boutique, microbrewery or a combination of the three.
The Kennedys' proposal was the only one to meet the minimum price requirement, which was the deciding factor in the city commission's decision on Nov. 23.
“We knew they were going to sell the building. We knew we were going to have to compete with other buyers,” Huntington said. “I don’t blame them at all for selling it. I just wish they would’ve been more informative about some things.”
Huntington alleges she was never told their offer was immediately rejected because of the minimum price, and fully expected an opportunity to speak to the proposal and negotiate.
“If you're in crafting your RFP, and that's kind of in bold print of $100,000 as a requirement, I'm thinking that's where you should begin,” said Commissioner Scott Davis, at the Nov. 23 city commission meeting. “To go back against the RFP, I think, would set a very, very bad precedent for this commission for other business ventures that we would be undertaking in the future.”
Upon learning of the 90 days vacation deadline, Huntington said she enlisted Frank’s help to find a new location.
“We hunted and hunted,” she said. “If the building was cheap enough, it was too small. If it was big enough, it was much too expensive.”
The space previously occupied by the Cowboy Community Church in the Lewis & Clark Building happened to be the ticket. Huntington, along with staff members and volunteers, has been busy boxing books, loading them on a trailer and hauling them to the new location.
During the move, the Main Street store is closed. However, if a customer happens to stop by, they won’t be turned away, Huntington said. But they may be enlisted to help pack.
Huntington says people come from far and wide to buy the used books her business offers. Visitors have stopped in from England and Norway, she said, and her books have been shipped to Germany, France and Japan.
Numerous book-loving high schoolers have had their senior pictures taken in Huntington Books over the years, too.
The new store, which is slightly smaller, will feature about 50,000 books. Huntington is looking to sell large quantities of paperbacks and hardcovers and plans to sell online again.
“We’re trying to figure out how not to be overwhelmed by books,” she said, noting much of the store’s inventory was donated by locals. “We’ve learned how to throw some out, which is not easy for book lovers.”
The new store will also feature a coffee bar, with tables and seating.
Huntington said she hopes the business she created with her late husband, Ed, continues to thrive for years to come — with or without her.
“I will have partners this time that will take over when I’m done,” she said.
The customers are what Huntington loves most about the bookstore.
“The people who come in are so interesting. Whether they read romance or history or sci-fi, they’re all so interesting,” she said. “Everyone has a story. We enjoy talking to people about their story.”