Joanne Kassebaum made a decision nearly four decades ago that has become a Kassebaum legacy.
The Book Shack opened next to the Dade City post office about 37 years ago, selling mostly used paperbacks. It shifted later to a shop on Martin Luther King Boulevard. And now, it is relocated again to 14145 Seventh Ave., across from the historic Pasco County Historic Courthouse. It is situated between Lunch on Limoges and Kiefer’s Village Jewelers.
Kristy Kassebaum – married to Joanne’s grandson, Kyle – is the new proprietor. Like her grandmother-in-law, she is passionate about books and reading.
When she knew Joanne Kassebaum was ready to retire in October, the timing seemed perfect.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own business,” she said. “To keep it in the family name is a fun bonus.”
And, Joanne Kassebaum isn’t going anywhere – just yet.
On weekdays, she operates the shop until mid-afternoon when Kristy Kassebaum finishes her job as a learning design coach with the Pasco County School District.
There is symmetry at work.
Joanne Kassebaum started her bookstore career when her sons were young; now Kristy Kassebaum is doing the same, with her children, Natalie, 4, and Nolan, 2.
Kristy Kassebaum said her husband, Kyle, has fond memories as a youngster hanging out among the shelves and shelves of books at his grandmother’s store.
“It’s cool to think my kids might have those memories, too,” she said.
But, first, years ago, there were 91 cartons packed with books that arrived in Dade City, shipped by Joanne Kassebaum’s sister-in-law from her Milwaukee bookstore.
She said it would work out great to open a bookstore, and start off with some of the extra books the Milwaukee store didn’t need.
“My boys were at the age I didn’t feel I could work full-time,” said Joanne Kassebaum. “But, this way I was the boss. If I had to leave, I could leave. It worked out beautifully. I never believed I’d stay 37 years. Never guessed it.”
Books made sense as an avocation.
As a youngster in Milwaukee, Joanne Kassebaum said, “I grew up reading. For a nickel, you could ride the bus uptown. We had a big library up there. I could get my books and take them home.”
Beginning at the age of 9, she made that journey weekly.
“I will read anything that has a good story line,” she said.
Her bookstore is a haven for readers who want to hold a book and feel it in their hands. She specialized in paperbacks and stocked the store with every genre, including paranormal romance, thrillers, Westerns, mysteries, military fiction and nonfiction.
Prices range from $1 to $10, depending on the original price list for the book. And, customers can get paid a few dollars for books they sell to the shop.
The reading range surprised Kristy Kassebaum.
“We have so many genres I didn’t know existed. Paranormal romance. You need a whole shelf for that. Yes, you do,” she said. “I had no idea people loved Westerns so much. There is something here for everybody.”
The new shop is a bit smaller than the space on Martin Luther King Boulevard, but it is in a prime spot for foot traffic.
Kristy Kassebaum is making a few changes, but she checked first with Joanne Kassebaum for approval.
Despite less room, there now is a special corner for children’s books. Gift items, including candles and children’s toys, have been added.
An inventory of the shop’s books is being uploaded into a computer to help customers search for specific books.
For Joanne Kassebaum, stepping away has been hard.
She knows the children, grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren of her customers, who are like friends to her.
“I loved that. That was wonderful,” she said. “I get emotional about it.”
The Book Shack is a “little piece of (Joanne’s) heart and soul,” Kristy Kassebaum said.
Published November 30, 2016