“Paperbacks Ink is the oldest new and used bookstore in Newport News, carrying primarily used books in many genres,” says Tara Brandt, owner. “We have a small selection of newly released books, and we will order new releases upon request. Our knowledgeable staff is mostly comprised of military spouses and veterans with a passion for all genres of literature.”
Paperbacks Ink has a long history in Newport News, stretching back to 1981. The store’s original name was “The Book Rack” and it was sold to Brandt and her husband in February of 2020. Taking the leap to buy a bookstore in such a digital age was frightening for the Brandts, but Tara knew that many people still loved the feeling of holding a book in their hands and physically turning the pages.
“My husband and I love reading and have a passion for physical, paper books, so the store is a complete labor of love. Buying the store wasn’t an easy decision — we are both aware of how technology has changed the book industry. It didn’t take long to realize that the established customer base we inherited from the previous owners was just as passionate about a paper book in their hands as we were,” says Brandt.
Brandt and her husband have forged a great bond with their customers. “I have gotten to know many of the long-standing customers and enjoy hearing all of their amazing stories. The prior years of Paperbacks Ink has really helped me to understand the history of the store and the love our customers have,” Brandt says. “Our new customers warm my heart with walking around in awe of the store, and I like seeing more and more children come into the store to get a favorite find.”
Within the store there is a charming coffee shop called Kaffee Kultur, which serves gourmet local coffees, teas and cookies. All of Kaffee Kultur’s products are purchased locally.
Paperbacks Ink greatly appreciates donations of books that people may no longer want. If a customer has more than 100 books to donate in one visit, Brandt requests a call to set an appointment to accommodate the donation. Brandt is always in need of classics, kids’ books, science fiction, fantasy and horror books, all in good condition.
The bookstore prides itself on providing not only access to physical books, but also a variety of events for the community to come in and enjoy. Activities include a monthly craft night, a fun event calendar, frequent book signings with local authors as well as a book club and a writers’ group, allowing everyone to get involved. Brandt and her husband enjoy designing and laying out their display window. “According to my husband, ‘we have the most eye-catching window displays on this side of 5th Avenue, New York,’” Brandt says with a smile.
While Paperbacks Ink has found its niche, Brandt reflects on how buying the shop just on the brink of the pandemic was something no one could have seen coming. “Of course, when we purchased this business, we had no idea that COVID-19 was right around the corner. However, we kept the doors open, observing the recommended safety procedures to keep customers healthy. One of the COVID impacts that indirectly helped us was when the libraries were closed for about the first six months. Readers wanted books, and our shop was ready to serve,” says Brandt.
Looking to the future, the Paperbacks Ink team has high hopes for the store. “Future plans include continuing to grow the bookstore’s customer base by expanding our selection and getting the word out. In the interest of serving the community and the local children, we will continue to provide a school-age summer reading program, which was enormously well received in 2021,” Brandt says. “We also plan to expand our craft nights and are even looking at making them ‘portable’ so we can bring craft night to other locations (like company functions, team fundraisers, etc.). We also want to grow Kaffee Kultur into a small café in late 2022.”
When asked about her personal favorite genre or book, Brandt couldn’t pick just one. “With so many great books in the marketplace, it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite. Although, I do enjoy a well written suspense novel,” Brandt says.
And when it comes to free time, books and Kaffee Kultur have a special place in Tara’s heart. “When time allows, my husband and I enjoy being with our family. However, being in the bookstore gives me the opportunity to engage in reading books, creating crafts and spending time with my friends who are also my co-workers while having a cup of coffee,” Brandt says.
Address: 9715 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Tara Brandt
Business: Bookstore and coffee shop