In the growing heart of Chillicothe, a former tattoo parlor is now an independent bookstore. In December, Wheatberry Books, a community-oriented business opened to sell new and used books to the people of Ross County.
“We have a small store, but we like to cover all the bases. It’s very carefully curated,” store owner Chelsea Bruning says. “We’ve had several local authors that are self-published come in, and their books go right on the shelves. We focus a lot on the local authors, and then we fill in the gaps.”
Bruning grew up in Ross County. She went to Paint Valley High School and later graduated from Ohio Northern University and began working as a pharmacist.
After some moving around, she and her husband decided to move back to Chillicothe, where Bruning continues to work as a pharmacist in addition to running her bookstore.
“It was a time when downtown wasn’t thriving, and we would walk around and say things like, ‘It would be so great if the community could come together and blossom.’ We started a family, moved outside of town, and it happened, and we wanted to get in on it,” Bruning says.
Downtown Chillicothe has seen the arrival of several new stores in the past few years. “This city is in such growing pains right now and has been,” City Fire Inspector Glenda Cornett says. “I love doing what I do because I love seeing places like this getting started.”
While the city has seen several shops come and go, Bruning is determined to change the way businesses function within the city, and she’s starting with her own.
“I really want it [Wheatberry Books] to be a community hub where we get involved with other businesses, the schools and the churches,” Bruning says. “I want it to be a safe place and a place that can encourage ideas and imagination. I don’t want it to be about selling books but bringing people together and starting conversations.”
Bruning is also attempting to hold local author events at the bookstore monthly to promote local art and create a gathering space for community members.
Shauna Shanks, a local author, says she was excited to see Bruning’s bookstore open. “I was thrilled to see how selective she is with the books she chooses,” Shanks says.
In February, Wheatberry Books held a local author event to promote Shanks’ first book, A Fierce Love. “It was just really nice. We had a lot of people in and out, and I got to talk to a lot of people in the community,” Shanks says.
Bruning says that owning her own bookstore has been a dream of hers since she was a teenager. While nearly anything can be ordered online, she believes that bookstores serve their own unique purposes and do what e-commerce sites cannot.
“Bookstores have that element of surprise, the unknown. We usually have people walk in and say, ‘This is what I like. Can you help me find something?’ We know everything on the shelves, so we can make recommendations, but sometimes they’ll be surprised by something they find while browsing. It’s the unexpected that’s there. They don’t really come in looking for one particular book, but they find something that they can really treasure,” Bruning says.
Wheatberry Books is located on 41 South Paint Street and is open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday.