ROYALTON -- When travelers think of Royalton, Treasure City and Dairy Queen probably come to mind.
It's a place on Highway 10 to use the restroom and buy snacks, a common stopping point between the Twin Cities and the Brainerd lakes area.
But few people realize that a Royalton couple has created a global business not far from the city's only stoplight.
Rhonda and John Atchley own The Coffee Mill and Bookstore, a bookstore the couple started as an online business that grew too big for their home and had to be moved into a storefront. They opened the adjoining coffee shop last summer after fire destroyed the city's only diner.
The bookstore, Books N' Stuff, takes up 10 rooms of a former Royalton medical clinic building located a block east of the stoplight. The clinic's former waiting room is now the bookstore lobby while the many small examination rooms have been overtaken by the store's more than 70,000 new and used books. Each room has a different theme, housing separate categories of books.
"It's almost like they built it for us," Rhonda Atchley said of the former medical clinic. "It has that 'you can hide' feeling. We find people sleeping in the rooms."
Books 'N Stuff in Royalton is located in a former medical clinic and now features more than 70,000 new and used books. The former examination rooms have different themes and make for cozy places to look for books. Owners Rhonda and John Atchley said they often find customers reading until they fall asleep in the little rooms.
The couple started their online book distribution business, www.alotofbooks.com, more than four years ago out of their home. He was a medic while she worked as a bank teller. The business was supposed to be a way to make a little extra money.
A year later, the business had outgrown their home. Books were piled five feet high in their living room and bedroom. That's when they knew it was time to open a store, they said. They leased a small storefront in their current building, but they quickly outgrew the space. Eventually they took over 10 rooms of the building and decided it made fiscal sense to buy the property, which they did. The bookstore has more than 70,000 new and used books and more than 10,000 books in storage, waiting to be put out on the shelves.
"We'd always wanted to have a business and we've always had an interest in books," John Atchley said.
"But we didn't expect it to be like this," added Rhonda. "We never thought we'd quit our jobs and do this."
"We weren't going to be a bookstore, we just wanted somewhere to put the books," John said with a laugh. "It (the business) was like a virus. It kept growing."
The Atchleys sell their new books at a 25 percent discount off the retail price, in addition to selling used books. Half of their inventory is new books. They made the decision long ago to sell discounted new books. The bookstore has a bargain books room where all books are priced at $1 to $4.
The Coffee Mill, Royalton's newest and only coffee shop and deli, was built onto the bookstore last summer by Rhonda and John Atchley after Royalton's only diner burned. The coffee shop features photos and memorabilia of Royalton's past. The wooden floor in the dining area was the former dance floor from the former Royalton American Legion building.
"We wanted a bookstore where anyone could afford to buy a book," said John.
The couple decided to add a coffee shop after the only diner in town was destroyed by fire. Two tables of men always met there to play dice and drink coffee in the mornings, and the Atchleys thought it was a shame that they didn't have a place to go after the fire. The coffee shop's theme is the history of Royalton.
"There was a need in town," said John. "I didn't build it for more money, it was for people to go in town."
The Atchleys managed the coffee shop for four months and then decided it was too much work to run the online book business, bookstore and the coffee shop, so they now lease the coffee shop business.
The online bookstore is thriving. They have a map that shows every country where they've shipped books. Almost every country is represented, except China, Russia and Cuba. They estimate they ship about 7,000 books a year.
What few people know is that the larger book chains, like Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, are clients of the Atchleys. If they need a book, they'll see if the Atchleys have it and will buy it from them, increasing the price of the book for the customer. They've also sold books to Newsweek, Fox TV and other media outlets for research purposes. Around election time, the Atchleys said they shipped biographical books on political candidates to the Washington Post.
"People are shocked daily about our bookstore, that it's in Royalton," said John.
The Atchleys said they are looking into the possibility of adding a second floor to the bookstore, offering new and used music and movies. They are also considering opening a coffee shop and new and used bookstore in Brainerd.
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