After 37 Years, Bell’s Family Books is Closing its Doors
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – The shelves are not as full as they used to be, but the friendly greeting is the same. Customers who’ve come to know Dwight Bell and his small staff of booksellers over the past 37 years will miss that greeting once his store finally closes at the end of April.
“It’s tough to shut down, but it’s time,” Bell said. “We’re not making any money.”
The 84-year-old Twin Falls man, who has sold LDS books and other products out of the small store called Bell’s Family Books at the corner of Albion Street North and Second Avenue North, said the last year in particular has been challenging.
While he still has returning customers – many who’ve known him since the store opened in the late 1970s – there aren’t as many of them as there used to be. Online shopping and ebooks haven’t helped. Neither has Deseret Book, a chain bookstore owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which opened a store on Pole Line Road in 2012.
Age also has caught up with the otherwise spry man. Bell underwent knee surgery last year, and it’s getting tougher for him to manage the store and take care of the several other properties that he also manages. He said he’s toyed with the idea of closing for a while, and even last month he expected to close shop by the end of March, but delayed it for another month.
Irene Dye, who’s worked at the bookstore for 12 years, said Bell still keeps offering to order product for his customers despite not knowing what will happen to the store’s inventory once it closes.
“That’s just how he is. It’s been really tough for him to let go,” she said. “He’s been such a pleasure to work for, but I’m also ready to move on. I have absolutely loved this job. I’ve had good music to listen to, good books and product to be around, and good friends who’ve come into the store over the years.”
Dye remembers when the store used to be busy, especially during the holidays, and Bell would hire five additional staff members to meet the year-end demands. Those days are gone – it didn’t see that kind of busy this last Christmas season – and soon so will Bell’s Family Books.
Bell and his wife, Myrna, opened the store in 1979 and for many years lived in a home next door. Myrna eventually developed Alzheimer’s, causing her to step back from the business that she helped create. It was tough for Bell to see his wife’s memory fade. She passed away in 2006 after battling the disease for 16 years. Bell recalled recently how she loved the store that sold faith-promoting products to church members, many from their own ward and stake.
He remarried in 2010, leased his house and moved to a different home with his second wife, Sondra. She’s helped him with the business ever since, but said she’s excited about the next chapter of their lives.
“I’m going to miss the books. I love books,” Sondra said. “But I’m looking forward to us closing because there are so many things for us to do.”
Susie Brown, formerly of Twin Falls but who now lives in Oregon, was at the store Friday morning during a family visit. She's shopped the store since it opened, including making visits whenever she was in town.
“My mom told me they were closing. I was really sad about that,” Brown said. “I’ve always felt really peaceful shopping here with everything that they sell in the store.”
Bell said he’s spoken with a couple of people interested in the building, but no formal business transactions have taken place. He plans to keep the property – including two rental homes in the neighborhood – and lease it to someone who’d like to make the spot their own business venture.
“It’s a good location,” Bell said. “I’m really going to miss the people.”