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For the Love of Books: Centre Market-Area Stores Collaborate, Not Compete

Photos by Scott McCloskey Chuck Wood, owner of Vigilant Books in the Center Market area of Wheeling, center, speaks with customer Harold Vitalie of Wheeling during the reopening of his store Friday.

WHEELING — A pair of ribbon-cuttings celebrated the reopening of one independent bookstore and the grand opening of another in Center Wheeling on Friday. The owners of both, located just a few doors from each other, hope to build on what they believe is a positive synergy emerging between bookstores in that area of town.

Within five minutes, Chuck Wood, owner of Vigilant Books, located at 1900 Market Street, and Sandra Baker, owner of the Point of the Heart used bookstore, located at 1912 Market Street, held ribbon cutting ceremonies under different circumstances. Both are equally passionate about the books they sell at their quaint stores.

It was a reopening for Wood, after closing in 2020 due to the pandemic. Baker said it was her first time opening a bookstore. Prominently displayed near the front entrances of both Vigilant and Point of Heart were flowers sent from the nearby Paradox Bookstore, welcoming both to the neighborhood. Wood said he believes all three bookstores share a tremendous collaboration and he came up with the idea of calling the bookstores in that area “the Wheeling book district.”

“We’re collaborative. We’re not competitive. We each have an idiosyncratic sort of collection of books,” Wood commented.

Wood, a Wheeling resident, who first opened his store in October of 2019, said he was only open for five months before he closed for 15 months due to the pandemic. He said he is delighted with what he considers a renewal of his used bookstore business as the community transitions past the pandemic.

“I loved books all my life. … I like used bookstores because you never know what you’re going to discover there,” Wood said, noting he has been exploring bookstores since he was in middle school.

“New bookstores, you can sort of get the latest books and whatnot. But used ones … everything is a treasure. What I discovered owning a bookstore, the people who come in, they’re really interesting people,” he commented. “When people come in, it’s interesting to see what books they have and what stories they have about their life.”

Local student Aliyah Pelley, who works part time at Vigilant Books, said she believes a lot of students enjoy visiting small locally-owned bookstores.

“I really enjoy used bookstores and I know a lot of youth do, too,” she commented. “I hope to work here as long as I can, until I go off to college. I really enjoy the effort we do here to make people aware of just how good used books can be and just the experience you can have with the smell and touch of an old book instead of a new one that still feels processed.”

Vigilant Books hours are 1-5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday.

Sandra Baker, owner of the Point of the Heart used bookstore, located at 1912 Market St., looks over a display of flowers sent from a nearby bookstore.

Baker, also a Wheeling resident, said opening Point of the Heart is a dream come true. She said her store carries several thousand books on a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction topics, many dealing with spirituality and history.

“I got a million books. Well, not quite a million, but it feels like it,” Baker said. “I will never in the rest of my life run out of books. I started collecting (books) about 1970.

“When you collect a book then, by now it’s probably worth something, so that’s kind of fun,” she added. “It’s just a wonderful feeling … and Chuck has named this the Wheeling book district and I think that’s just wonderful.”

Point of the Heart store hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment on Sunday.

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