LONGMONT — Kay Evatz knows books.
The longtime librarian and owner of the children’s bookstore, Books for the Whole Child, reads a children’s book each night before going to bed. She knows what almost every book in her store is about and a bit about each author.
But Kay Evatz also knows kids. After working in schools and raising two of her own, Evatz is confident in her ability to read children as well as books.
Her favorite challenge is to find the perfect book for the particular kid.
“I always find something I know will wow them,” Evatz said, sitting in the cozy upstairs tearoom at Books for the Whole Child. “When a kid says, ‘I hate to read,’ I say ‘ah ha,’ and I find a great book for them.”
For more than a year and a half, Evatz has been fitting Longmont children to the books they love at her small bookstore at 333 Terry St. Saturday, her challenge will end. Books for the Whole Child is going out of business.
“It’s really hard for a small business to make it,” she said. “We kind of just got smacked in the face.”
Evatz said 35 percent of the store’s business came from teachers and schools in the St. Vrain Valley School District buying books and supplies. The district’s budget crisis and the recent failure of the mill-levy override in November dampened that business, she said.
“We went from having 10 to 15 customers a day to having one,” she said. “When the (mill-levy override) stopped, our customers stopped.”
The school district has been dealing with a $13.9 million general fund deficit since late 2002. It was also recently discovered the district is $4.4 million short in state-mandated spending on materials and supplies for students over the last three years.
The district is working to make up for both deficits.
But for Evatz, it appears to be too late.
She said teachers used to patronize her store to buy books for their students and, while they were there, shop for themselves, too. She said some school libraries also bought books from her.
Another blow to her store came when libraries around the district began to buy books from a large wholesale company.
“It’s the little guys against the big guys,” Evatz said. “When we lost the schools, we knew that was it.”
Dawn Willyard and her daughter Brittany were shopping at Books for the Whole Child on Thursday for the first time.
“We like to have books in our house but it gets so expensive,” Willyard said. “So we usually go to the library, or if we’re in the mall Walden (Books) or Borders is right there.”
But losing to the larger chains is not what Evatz is most upset about. Along with missing her loyal customers and matching kids to books, Evatz is most upset about losing the store her friend Sue Ahlberg started in 1987.
“I just feel like I let Sue down,” she said, getting teary.
The reason Evatz bought the store in the first place was to save it from closing. Now she says she has no choice.
“We thought (business) might come back,” she said. “But we can’t survive without that 35 percent. We just had to get out while we could still walk away.”
Books for the Whole Child has been holding a 75 percent off everything in the store sale since Monday, and a two-for-one sale since the beginning of the month. Evatz estimated the store had more than 42,000 books at the beginning of March, and has 10,000 left. The store will be open until 6 p.m. tonight and Saturday.
Mikenna Clokey can be reached at 303-684-5336
or by e-mail at email@example.com.