Today we have good news for anyone who loves books, and not so good news for some young women who aspire to higher education. These are linked, and the hub of each is an upper-level retail space inside the Tanglewood Mall.
It’s where, since 2010, the Roanoke Valley Chapter of the American Association for University Women has held book sales and, over the years, raised tens of thousands of dollars for undergraduate college scholarships and graduate studies for women.
The good news: AAUW is hosting a humdinger clearance sale this Saturday. There, his used books can be had for $2 per full shopping bag, and the organization is ready to cut prices even better for high-volume buyers.
The bad news explains why the group is hosting the event: The owners of the Tanglewood Mall have asked the AAUW to empty the space by June 10. At this point, the book sale has nowhere to go, which means Saturday’s event could be the last.
Currently, the chapter has about 30,000 books, said Helen Ruth Burch, a former chapter president who serves on the organization’s book sales committee.
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Tanglewood Mall “is just a business, that’s what they should be,” Burch told me on Sunday. “They’ve been very good to us, so we’re not angry with them.”
“We knew this could happen if they were ever able to rent this space for what it’s really worth,” said Peggy Shifflett, chair of the chapter’s book sales committee.
The AAUW dates back to 1881 and the local has been around since 1923, which means it will celebrate its centennial next year. It has about 50 members, Burch said. The group’s Facebook page indicates that Roanoke is one of the most active chapters in Virginia.
Shifflett said the group’s first-ever book sale was held outdoors on the lawn of the Roanoke Main Library in downtown Jefferson Street. “It was in the rain, by the way,” Shifflett said.
Its proceeds were donated to the national AAUW, to fund graduate scholarships. At a later point in the sale’s history, the chapter began using a portion of the proceeds to also fund undergraduate scholarships for local women returning to college and for young women right out of school. High School.
Subsequent sales were held at various locations throughout the valley, and by the mid-1970s the event was bringing in hundreds of dollars a year. Burch said gross was $767 in 1977.
In 2003, the owners of Tanglewood offered to let the AAUW hold it in commercial space set aside for community functions. Even then, the AAUW had to stage the sale and move its used books from a warehouse on Northwest 10th Street to the mall for the event and then return afterward, which was a huge hassle.
Beginning in 2010, the mall’s owners allowed the group to also store its books inside Tanglewood and leased the group a defined 3,500 square foot storefront on the mall’s second floor across from the entrance. of Belk.
This relieved AAUW members of having to haul the books before and after each sale, and all sorts of packing and unpacking. And it also meant that members could categorize and organize donated books as they arrived, throughout the year, rather than days before the next sale.
This allowed the group to hold sales twice a year, rather than just once. And the annual proceeds jumped to the $10,000 range.
“Sometimes it’s gone down to $8,000 or $9,000 and sometimes it goes up to $12,000,” Shifflett said.
The two most recent sales brought in around $12,000 worth of proceeds. The organization currently funds eight local fellowships.
The AAUW lease provided that either party could end the lease with 30 days’ notice — and the mall decided to exercise that clause earlier this month, Burch said. . John Abernathy, chairman of Blackwater Resources, which owns the mall, did not return a phone call or email for comment.
The end of the lease also forced the AAUW to consider ending the annual sale. Its members are aging — the current median age of members hovers around the upper 60s, Burch told me. Fewer and fewer are able to throw boxes of books as they could in their youth.
Burch said she could not, under the terms of the lease, disclose the rent paid by the AAUW. But it was well below market, she added.
“They gave us very low rent at first and only raised it once — by $25 — and we got extra services for that,” Shifflett said. Additional services included listing the book sale on the mall’s website and on its electronic marquee along Electric Road.
The AAUW did not hold in-person sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, but about four years ago it also began selling donated books online.
This “could continue if we found a place to store the books,” Burch told me. “[Storage] space is the issue, and finding a place that could handle the sale itself. For example, biannual sales require parking for attendees, as they typically attract 450-500 potential buyers.
What kind of books are on sale Saturday?
“We probably have the most volumes in fiction — hardback fiction,” Burch said. “We also have a great history section.” Other categories include non-fiction, gardening, travel, DIY manuals, sports, and classics.
Looks like a good selection. But you might want to bring your own bags on Saturday, lest the AAUW run out amid hordes of bargain hunters. Because two dollars a bag will pay them off.
Contact Subway Columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter:.