Recycle Bookstore celebrates 20 years in Campbell

Recycle Bookstore started the new year by celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Campbell location. The bookstore also has a location in San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood.

“Bookstores are very personal to each city,” said Recycle Bookstore owner Eric Johnson. “People attach themselves to their local bookstore.”

Recycle Bookstore first opened on South First Street in San Jose in 1967. Original owners Pat and Joan Hayes eventually moved the bookstore to East Santa Clara Street, where it stayed for over 20 years.

Johnson and his wife Cynthia bought the store from Joan Hayes in October 1998 and moved it to its current location on The Alameda.

The Campbell store opened in 2004 in a smaller location downtown before moving down Campbell Avenue to its current location about five years ago.

“Campbell has a family-oriented, downtown vibe,” said Johnson. “I like the fact that it is approachable and walkable, and it has a nice close-knit community.”

“I am super, super, super proud of the store and what the employees do here,” said Campbell store manager Stacy Carlon. “It’s an important part of the community.”

Carlon champions shopping locally. “Your dollar stays here. And you can talk to people who sell books because they love them.”

The bookstores also are home to several cats. The cat at the Campbell store is named Max Wtwta, which stands for “Where the Wild Things Are.”

The Campbell store stocks 60,000 books, both new and used, in genres like young adult, children’s, mystery, literature, science fiction and many more.

At the time the Johnsons bought the bookstore, they had no experience running a small business. They were both working at the San Jose Mercury News. Cynthia was a clerk, and Eric edited the entertainment calendar.

“I was familiar with the store,” said Johnson. “We had been customers for a while. We saw it was for sale and started thinking about it.”

They borrowed money from their families, and half of a loan they received was guaranteed by the Office of Economic Development in the City of San Jose.

While still working at the Mercury News, the Johnsons worked nights and weekends at the bookstore in the beginning.

“When you have a small business, there is so much to do and so many variables,” said Johnson. “It’s not an easy job. Turns out I have a certain talent for the bookstore.”

Sales increased both in store and online. Recycle Bookstores only sell out-of-print or collectible books online through Amazon or Advanced Book Exchange sites.

Over the years, staff learned what books to keep in the stores and which books to lose. Johnson said the customers really dictate what is available. To that end, the Campbell store stocks more new books than the San Jose location.

“My philosophy is that we listen to what the customer is asking for and adjust the business model to that audience,” said Johnson. “Because people are (also) bringing us books, it tightens the relationship from the community to you.

“We have a lot more new kids books in Campbell,” he added. “There is very little history in Campbell but a lot in San Jose, which is an example of listening to customers. You try to adjust how you do business based on the people coming in.”

Customers of all ages appreciate the effort.

“Nothing makes me happier than seeing the kids run out and start reading right away on the bench in front of the store,” said Carlon.

“I would definitely consider myself a loyal customer,” said Donna Campbell, a Campbell resident since 1995. “I have shopped at Recycle Bookstore in Campbell since it first opened.

“The selection of quality literature is excellent,” she added. “I find that the displays that are created at the front of the store serve as great book recommendations for what to read next.”

Recycle Bookstores are located at 275 E. Campbell Ave. in Campbell (408-370-3514) and at 1066 The Alameda in San Jose (408-286-6275).


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