For the January spotlight, we spoke with Brandon Hartman, owner of Second Time Books.
Second Time Books is a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. The bookstore specializes in helping readers pick out a good read—whether it’s the book they’ve been searching for for years or the new title that screams “Read Me!” from the bookshelf. So if you’re in the area, go ahead and give your eyes a break from the strain of a screen and head to Second Time Books.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you do and offer?
We are a secondhand bookstore dealing primarily in history, science fiction/fantasy, and classic literature, but we do have a lot of general interest material.
Unlike some booksellers, we’re a bookstore for readers that also cares about content and condition. Although we sell pre-owned books, they have to be in excellent shape. We want to get value into peoples’ hands.
We all enjoy reading here, and it’s a great joy and pleasure to have someone come in and find a book they’ve been looking for for ten years. Seeing that is great.
What made you decide to start Second Time Books?
Well, I have been in the business of books for a number of years—probably close to two decades—and my father was in them, so it was a natural progression.
But about two years ago, an opportunity came up to purchase Second Time Books from the previous owner, Jim, who was a great mentor to me. So, I was at a point where I felt that it would be a great decision for my own career, enjoyment, and my family.
What’s your favorite part of running your own business?
My favorite part of running my own business is that, because I’m doing what I enjoy, I get to wake up every morning and be excited to come to work.
Just as much as people come here to find their treasures, I always enjoy anticipating what kind of treasures are going to come in and delivering them to other people.
What are some of the biggest challenges?
Biggest challenges I encounter … well, there are a few. But the biggest one that I have is the competition with the internet.
Primarily Amazon because they have an international reach, and although they present themselves as a helpful third-party for small business, their commissions are so high that it’s cost prohibitive to work with them.
How does Patriot’s Full Service Payroll help you run your business?
Patriot Payroll is so quick and efficient. I get to spend all the time I would be doing reports, writing paychecks, and keeping track of hours; finish my payroll in five minutes; and get back to the work that I can be doing in my business.
Patriot really has been such a relief, such an ease. When I get something from the state and go Oh man, what is this?, I’m able to forward it to Patriot and say, I think I know what this, can you confirm? I know I’m in good hands.
When it comes to your business, what are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of being a reservoir for people who want to read—both for education and enjoyment—in the midst of a world that is so consumed with virtual technology and being able to kind of create a community that cares about those things.
What words of advice do you have for people hoping to start their own small business?
It takes a lot of time. There’s a quote that says “If you work really hard, one day you can become the boss and work twice as hard.” It takes a lot of time, a lot of ability to assess yourself and your motivations, and kind of step back and realize you can’t do everything at once.
Depend on other people who have been there and done that and can guide you through the bureaucracy of taxes, state obligations, and those types of things.
And frankly, I would add that you don’t make a lot of money at first, but if it’s what you love then stick with it.
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