Bookstore celebrates 70 years

Tyrel Linkhorn

John Harold Dubois, founder of Dubois Bookstore, sold used books out of this modified car during the 1930s. PHOTO COURTESY OF DUBOIS BOOKSTORE

Credit: Jason Hall

It started as a way for Hiram professor John Harold DuBois to make extra money during the Great Depression and grew into a home-run business in Kent.

Now, 70 years later, DuBois bookstore has thousands of titles, both new and used, two locations in Kent and a full line of Kent State merchandise.

The year was 1936, and after a few years of selling used books out of a modified car in Kent and other college towns, John bought and moved his family into the white house on South Lincoln Street that now sits next to the DuBois bookstore.

In November of that year, John opened the front of his home as a bookstore.

Hal DuBois, the third generation manager of DuBois bookstore, said there were no other bookstores in Kent at the time the first store opened.

“It causes some tension (with the university) to start,” he said. “Now, we’re 70 years down the road and Kent has grown a lot. You need that (other bookstore).”

Hal said not only was his grandfather’s store the first in Kent, but it was a relatively new idea.

“He was one of the first guys who got into the used book stores,” he said.

Jack DuBois, Hal’s uncle, said in 1941, John bought a home on College Street, moved his family there, and used the South Lincoln Street home exclusively as a bookstore.

At the time, the university was basically just what is known today as Front Campus, Hal said. DuBois sold “mostly the classics,” at that time, as there were far fewer departments than there are today.

Jack said “nothing big” happened until the new store opened.

The “new store” was the South Lincoln Street location, which opened in 1957.

Not long after the new store opened, John passed away. His son Fredric returned to Kent to run the store.

It wasn’t long before current manager Hal was helping his father.

“As soon as I could put a ‘used’ sticker on a book,” he said.

A lot has changed over the last 70 years, Hal said. The store went from selling strictly used books to far more merchandise at the dual-level location. Text book prices have went up exponentially, raising 200 percent in the last 20 years.

Today, the merchandise is DuBois most active item, especially the “rainbow colored” KENT T-shirts, the best-seller item for the store, Hal said. As part of their 70th anniversary sale, the T-shirts are $2 off. DuBois also has a bookshelf full of books, including many author autographed copies, that are 70 percent off.

Hal said while the store tries to keep prices low, he believes, and surveys have confirmed, that it’s the service, not the prices, that have made the store so successful.

Focusing on service and the students have led to a lot of customer loyalty, even generational loyalty.

“Parents come in here and go, ‘Wow, the place looks pretty much the same,'” he said.

Contact student finance reporter Tyrel Linkhorn at [email protected].