Book Learnin'

We could all learn from this bookseller's environmental and philanthropic ideals.
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This story appears in the October 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Vital Stats: Sharon Anderson Wright, 43, president and CEO of Half Price Books Inc.

Company: Largest independently owned used book company in the country, with 77 stores in 11 states

2002 Sales Projections: $110 million

Peace, Love and Books: "My mother, Patricia Anderson, and her boyfriend, Ken Gjemre, [who've passed away,] were both in with the peace and environmental movements. In 1972, they got the idea to sell all these [used] books and not have them end up in landfills."

Continuing the Legacy: "We donate hundreds of thousands of books a year to nonprofit organizations to help with literacy. We recycle what we can at the store and put the money in our community service fund, which also aids literacy. Employees are encouraged to get involved with philanthropic activities."

"The motto when we started was we'd buy everything printed or recorded, except yesterday's paper."

Workplace Romance: "I met my husband, Ken [Wright], when he started working at the store. His first job was to supervise and build our new main location. He was a great worker and looked pretty darn good in a toolbelt."

Small Salary, Big Rewards: "It takes a lot of used books to make any money in this business. We have great benefits and a relaxed work environment. I don't think I work much harder than the other employees, so I'd feel guilty if I took more money."

Reaching the Big 3-0: "We'll probably open five or six stores next year, and renovate and expand some of our existing stores. For our 30th anniversary, we'll be doing the same as we've always done, slow and steady."

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Edition: July 2017

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