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New owners step in at Gulliver's Books in Fairbanks

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 12:15 am | Updated: 12:09 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — About a year ago, Bryan and Christy Wiskeman walked into Gulliver’s Books to buy a cookbook. They ended up with something much bigger than a good casserole recipe.

The Fairbanks couple happened to talk with the bookstore’s owner, David Hollingsworth, about their dream of owning a small local business someday.

“His response was, ‘Do you want to buy a bookstore?’” Christy said.

To their surprise, the answer turned out to be yes. Christy began working at the bookstore the next day to get an inside look at the business the Wiskemans eventually would purchase.

Their loyalty goes back to their own experience as longtime Gulliver’s

customers.

The couple has lived in Fairbanks since 1994 and both previously worked with the school district. Christy taught at West Valley and Hutchison high schools, while Bryan worked as a school safety administrator.

The sale of the bookstore, which has become an institution in the College neighborhood since it opened in 1985, was announced quietly last month.

The Wiskemans said the response has been encouraging, both from the public and store employees. With an uncertain future ahead for many small bookstores, an indication that Gulliver’s will remain open has been greeted enthusiastically. Almost all of the store’s 14 employees are holdovers from Hollingsworth’s ownership.

“I would say overwhelmingly people are glad that it’s going to stay and continue,” Bryan said.

Hollingsworth, who owns a lodge in Montana, is out of state and couldn’t be reached for comment. Bryan said Hollingsworth’s main concern was that Gulliver’s continued to operate, not to cash in his investment.

“He didn’t get rich off the deal,” Bryan said with a smile.

The Wiskemans say they’re optimistic about the future of Gulliver’s, which has a following that goes beyond just books. A popular cafe upstairs offers soups, bagels and wraps alongside espresso drinks. A variety of quirky gifts are scattered throughout the store, from flip-flops with a Haida art design to a “great mustaches” magnet set.

Anchoring it are new and used book selections, which fill the nooks in the distinctive two-story business. Gulliver’s also added an online bookstore in January.

“Compared to what’s happened nationally with small independent bookstores, Gulliver’s is in a unique position with an incredibly loyal customer base,” Christy said. “Gulliver’s is a Fairbanks institution.”

Because of that, don’t expect a big shakeup, the Wiskemans say. People who have become accustomed to their favorite soup or a particular selection of books shouldn’t be concerned.

“For the most part, we plan to keep it the same,” Christy said. “It’s just a cool thing the way it is.”

Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.

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