Kent graduate owns local bookstore

Last Exit Books opens at 10 a.m. during the week. The store carries books, CDs, records, DVDs and Blu-Rays. Photo by Jessica Yanesh.

Last Exit Books opens at 10 a.m. during the week. The store carries books, CDs, records, DVDs and Blu-Rays. Photo by Jessica Yanesh.

Adrienne Savoldi

Surrounded by books, Jason Merlene seems right at home in the spacious store he calls Last Exit Books.

?Merlene, a Kent State graduate with an accounting major, opened his used bookstore on Main Street in 2005.

?He worked as a certified public accountant for five years at Sawyer Business College before opening Last Exit Books. Merlene said he enjoyed that job but decided to move on, and he worked at Half Priced Books after he left Sawyer.


“I didn’t have passion to open a bookstore, but I did have the passion to do something I love,” Merlene said.


He said while his wife attended Kent State for her master’s in library science, he would roam around Kent looking for a bookstore. When he couldn’t find one, he got the idea to place one in Kent. One day he saw a “for rent” sign outside one of the buildings he often passed. The next day, he signed the lease.

?Merlene said the best part of owning his own store is not working for somebody else.

?“All the energy you put into it is fulfilling your own vision, not someone else’s,” Merlene said. Merlene advised students who want to open a business to do as much as they can by themselves.

?“Watch from the beginning how much money you put out up front,” Merlene cautioned, saying he saw many businesses fail that way.

Merlene also said he likes meeting and learning new things from the customers who pass through his store. The worst part is paying attention to all the little details.

?“Books don’t get on the shelves by themselves; floors don’t get clean by themselves,” Merlene said.

?In addition to books, Last Exit Books also carries CDs, records, DVDs and Blu-rays.

?Last Exit Books has live music perform a couple times a month on Saturday afternoons or evenings, as well as poetry readings, some of which Merlene said are done through the Wick Poetry Center.

?Christmas is Merlene’s busiest time of year, though summers are busy as well. Merlene said the walking traffic when the weather is nice and the events in Kent bring customers to the store.

?He also said he gets a good mix of Kent State students and non-students.

?“I’m quite happy with the mix of people I get,” Merlene said.

Kevin Konieczny, freshman political science major, said he was impressed with the selection offered at Last Exit Books.

?“The quality of the books was good,” Konieczny said. “It was a really good variety. It had a very friendly atmosphere.”

?Tim Anstine, junior visual communication design major, was also pleased.

?“I thought it was pretty cool. They had a pretty good selection,” Anstine said.

Contact Adrienne Savoldi at [email protected].