We’re up to 1,667 books at an average price of $.71 per book, and what a learning experience the Thrift Store Tour has been.

The first leg – though Milledgeville, Macon, and Warner Robins – was a mixed bag but was ultimately successful due to the Goodwill Good Reads store. Good Reads is a pilot program where Goodwill runs a bookstore-style operation in a coffeehouse setting. The children’s books are $1-$2 each (and are priced, interestingly, by size) but there are so many in one place that it’s a great stop.  I stuck to $1 books to preserve my budget, and after 2 trips have gotten 334 books there.

As I suspected, Atlanta was a gold mine – made even more so by generous donors who picked up the entire tabs at several stores, and the generosity of a few stores in extending their senior citizen discount to me even though I don’t qualify based on age. 974 books in 2 days! I’ll repeat this leg as often as funds (and time) permit.

The surprise of the Atlanta tour was my stop in Winder.  Wow what a selection of children’s books!  110 books from the Goodwill in the tiny town of Winder… I’ll be heading back for sure.

The South Carolina > North Carolina > Tennessee leg was so strange.  I planned to go to about 7 Goodwills in South Carolina, but abandoned my plan after discovering over-priced books in bad condition at my first 3 stops.  It was also really time-consuming to find the stores in unfamiliar territory.  I decided to move on in search of greener pastures.

I headed up to western North Carolina and stopped in a few small towns, with much better luck. Lower prices, more books, better condition. But… I ran out of time and the stores began to close, so I skipped the entire Asheville area. I will be looking for an opportunity to go there this fall.

In the Knoxville area, I was so confused as to why I couldn’t find any books in the thrift stores. Even large thrift stores had few books, if any.  Then I went to McKay’s Used Books, and all was made clear.  This chain of book stores stretches from Knoxville to Nashville, and is the biggest book store (new or used!) I’ve ever seen. There was a steady line of people trading in books on both of my visits. 

The selection at McKays was amazing.  Bone and Amulet graphic novels… 4 shelves of Junie B Jones… Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  But the prices were high: $6 for Bone, $9 for Amulet, $7 for Wimpy Kid, and $3 each for Junie & the Captain. 

My hostess, Alice, had held a book drive in Knoxville so we went through her books to pull out the adult titles we couldn’t use. I traded them for a $70 credit at McKays, but was faced with a dilemma: do I buy 11 copies of Bone, or 23 copies of Captain Underpants?  I opted for the Captain, but the decision was painful.  I could have purchased 1,000 books in that store if I’d had enough credit, but those prices are way outside our budget. 

I went to a few Goodwills in the Knoxville area but it was clear that McKays is getting all the books, so I decided to save my gas and head home.

The South Georgia leg of the thrift store tour was cancelled.  I had planned to stay in St. Simons while my husband attended a conference, but he had to stay home to attend an employee’s funeral. I will be down that way at Thanksgiving and hope to hit the Savannah area, and I’ll make a stop in Reidsville GA to pick up books from long-time supporter Mary S.

Next up: the tour resumes with another trip to Tennessee.  My car will be loaded with books to trade in for credit at McKays’ Chattanooga store, and I’ll make the Atlanta rounds on the way. It’s been over a month so hopefully their shelves are restocked!  My aunt and I will try the Tullahoma-area thrifts, but I suspect we’ll find that McKays is having the same impact as in Knoxville.

I’m so grateful to our Thrift Store Tour sponsors. Most recently, the Athens Lunchtime Optimists invited me to their monthly meeting and gave me a check to cover 2 more stops, and an Athens supporter picked up the bill at the Athens Goodwill earlier this week. Yay!

As I mentioned in another post, we are trying to raise all 30,000 books by December 31st this year. Fire and Flavor needs some of our space when their busy season kicks in March 1, and we’ll need all the weekends in January and February to box the books and get them stored on pallets.  Books that come in from March – June will be stored for 2014, so that we aren’t in Fire and Flavor’s way – we can’t risk affecting their operations!  This means we have to buy a larger percentage of books this year, which makes me really nervous. Thank goodness for the discounts we get from First Book and Scholastic.

It’s going to be an interesting school year. The students return in the next week or so, and we have a plan to collect feedback from them on whether or not they read (and liked) their books.  I can’t wait to hear what they say.