By Liesa Malik
What can you do when you and your spouse own more books than is possible to read in a lifetime? Open a bookstore, and end up with even more volumes, of course. For Ron and Nina Else, this is just what happened, and for the former Human Relations specialists with the government, it is a dream comes true adventure.
Ron and Nina own Who Else! Books, within the Broadway Book Mall on Broadway at Cedar. The mall houses nine vendors with a large variety of new and used titles, and a thriving community of both writers and readers to keep the place a Denver must see.
"We went into book selling to get rid of some of our extra books," said Nina. She glances over at Ron and they both begin to chuckle. The Broadway Book Mall is overfilled with books, posters, and other items on just about every surface, and tucked into every corner. Ron adds his own special perspective. "I think we're hopeless book-aholics," he says.
The couple, married for 28 years, has been working side-by-side since they opened a stall at the former Denver Book Mall just a few blocks north. He is gifted in display and stocking, and she handles the bookkeeping and general operations.
As word came that the old store was closing, Ron and Nina made a play to buy it out, but the deal fell through. Undaunted, the couple took a group of nine other booksellers and re-opened at their present location. For over four years they have been a staple of the surrounding community.
"The good part of opening this mall was that we got to choose the people to bring with us," said Nina. "We selected them carefully, and only one person has since left—and that was for health reasons." The criteria that the Elses used to select the vendors were:
- The people needed to be in the new venture for the love and knowledge of books
- They had the business skills to close out the cash register properly each evening
- They had to be very good with people. Very.
Although the Elses are the owners of the mall location, for all intents and purposes this is a cooperative venture with several operational decisions being made by vote. That's how they came up with the name. And Ron quickly points out that the moniker is so good they could even use it if they moved to New York. Nina looks over to shake her head and smile.
Another vote determined that unfortunately, there couldn't be a cat mascot in the store. A few people had allergies, so that plan wouldn't work. Instead, the Elses put out water dishes and welcome neighborhood dogs in for a drink and a treat. Nina prefers dogs to cats anyway, and the dogs seem to know this.
One canine friend, Carl, brings his realtor dad in frequently. But Carl is part active foxhound, and he tends to bang into corners and other things. Ron and Nina came to the rescue. They put out plastic corner covers that they call "Carl's Corners," and all is well.
The Elses' strong devotion to community and authors make them a favorite for authors in search of a good book signing venue. "From the beginning, we made a commitment to support local authors," said Nina. As a result they tend to carry a wide variety of local authors.
"I just think local authors become such friends over the years," said Nina. "I cherish that."
And the Elses prove the point every day, both with their customers and their colleagues. Laura Givens, artist and another vendor within the Broadway Book mall said, "They are definitely an old married couple, very much a pair. When Nina broke her foot Ron was as nice as butter in your mouth to her. We're happy to be with them."
You might even say that Ron and Nina make a perfect set of bookends for the Broadway Book Mall.
Liesa Malik is a freelance writer and marketing consultant originally from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but currently living in Littleton, Colorado with her husband and two pets. She has always enjoyed reading mysteries, from The Happy Hollister series, through Trixie Beldon and into Reader’s Digest’s Great True Stories of Crime, Mystery and Detection. A graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communications,
Liesa has built on her writing interest with long-standing membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and recently joined the board of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. She is the author of Faith on the Rocks: a Daisy Arthur Mystery. Most days you can find Liesa either at her desk or at a local ballroom dance studio. For more about Liesa, please visit her website.