Small Business Highlight: Burke’s Book Store
Burke’s Book Store has a long history. It opened in 1875 at 180 N. Main Street by Walter Burke Sr. The bookstore was then bought and moved several times before Corey (he/him) and Cheryl Mesler (she/her) bought the business. Corey and Cheryl met while working at the book store where Corey had been the store manager since 1988, and Cheryl moved to Memphis in 1990 for a temporary job at Burke’s Book Store. In 2000 they bought it and in 2007, the couple moved the store to its current location at 936 Cooper St., right in the heart of Cooper-Young. I was able to ask Corey some questions over email and learned some exciting things about him and the book store.
Burke’s carries used, rare, and new books. According to the website, used and new books are often stocked next to each other for easy price comparisons. When a customer first enters the store, they are greeted by what Corey and Cheryl call the “Living Room,” it’s an area at the front of the store with cases and tables filled with rare books. They take pride in these books and take extra care of them because many of them are fragile and old. “It’s a browser’s paradise, and, with used books, the inventory literally changes every day,” said Corey. If a customer browses further in the store they will discover the famous typewriters. These typewriters are special to Burke’s. “We had some old family typewriters that we had no room for in our wee, cozy Cooper-Young bungalow. So, we took them to the store. People loved them and, soon, we were inundated with donations of old typewriters. People can be so generous. The timeworn machines seem to belong among old books, I guess. Currently, we have 21.” Burke’s is a unique place to shop with its diverse history, ever-changing stock, and relics to discover within the store.
Corey and Cheryl have owned Burke’s Book Store for 22 years, but at first, they didn’t think it would be possible. “We were hippies with no capital. But we were dreaming hard…Sometimes if you dream really hard you never wake up and the dream becomes reality. With the help of family and the SBA we were able to buy Burke’s Book Store in 2000.” Corey’s right, Burke’s is an essential part of Memphis history and shows that small businesses can flourish for years, especially when the community is supportive and active. Burke’s Book Store stands out from other companies in Memphis because it is genuinely, uniquely Memphis. According to Corey, their store has tapped into the magic and triumph of the little guy. “Memphis is a city of deep mystery and equally deep humility.” Memphis is a place where business owners and creators can achieve their dreams because the city is full of life and support for those hunting their goals.
Corey is also a published author! He told me that he writes literary fiction and poetry; he also enjoys reading literary fiction. Some of his written works are The Tense Past, Memphis Movie, and Camel’s Bastard Son.
Visit Burke’s Book Store at 936 Cooper St. Memphis, TN, or on their website to check out their unique stock of books. Do you own a uniquely Memphis business and want to be featured on our blog? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! Here are the links to our social media if you want to check them out: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.