M&M Books takes over shop after previous owners' 27-year run

'Sometimes I feel like a bartender'

CEDAR RAPIDS — Some days, it almost seems like fate that Ursla Lanphear now owns M&M Books in Cedar Rapids.

She and her husband, Bill, took over ownership of the used bookstore in October this past year when then owners Bobbie McLane and Donna Young decided to retire after running the store for 27 years.

The Lanphear family had moved to Cedar Rapids back in March, and Ursla had been searching for a job since. She’d worked for more than 20 years in child care and was looking to do something different.

Out of the blue, she noticed an ad on Craigslist listed the used bookstore for sale.

“My mom loved used bookstores,” said Lanphear. “She loved old English mysteries.”

Lanphear’s mother, Marilyn, for whom the store is named, had moved to Cedar Rapids with the family but died shortly after their arrival. Lanphear, still emotional from her passing, thought she had better at least go check out the bookstore.

“Used bookstores can be overwhelming,” she said. “But this was the most organized used bookstore I’ve seen in my life. I thought, ‘My mom would love this place.’ So as soon as we came in we knew this is what we wanted to do.”

Lanphear’s mother had left her some money, so while Marilyn was never able to own a bookstore in her lifetime, her daughter now could.

The store was known for many years as Basically Books.


“This started as a little tiny place and they added to the store over the years,” she said. “It has grown into an amazing business. They knew their clients so well, knew everything about their customers and what they wanted to read to build their business.

“They didn’t want to just sell this business to anyone. It’s an honor that they sold it to us.”

She said McLane and Young have served as mentors as she’s taken over ownership of the store. Now Lanphear, with the help of a part-time employee, has started putting her own touches on the store, such as creating a seating area in one corner of the shop.

“We’ve moved this around a bit and are slowly starting to change a few things. We are getting such good response to the changes which is nice,” Lanphear said.

“We have a reputation as a romance store, which we do have much of, but we want to bring in a younger audience and expand our children’s section and bring in other new authors.”

They also are in the process of converting from pen-and-paper inventory tracking to using computerized systems for ordering and sales.

“We have over 45,000 books on the shelves on any given day and we are always restocking,” she said, noting that they also sell new books at 20 percent off the cover price and handle special orders.

“For some of our customers, this is their only outing for the week or day,” Lanphear added. “Sometimes I feel like a bartender. I am getting to know them and getting to know what’s going on in their lives.”


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l Know a business open for more than a year that would make a nifty “My Biz” feature? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com.

At a glance

l Owner: Ursla Lanphear

l Business: M&M Books

l Address: 212 Edgewood Rd. NW, Cedar Rapids

l Phone: (319) 396-8420

l Website: http://www.mandmbookstore.com



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