Perusing the pages of beloved books turned a pastime into a business for Rocco Pellegrino.
Pellegrino, 64, owns Small World Books, a used and out-of-print bookstore at 425 North St. in Rochester. His own love of literature inspired him to start the business.
"The reason I got into it was because I was a reader first," he explains.
His passion for reading and the desire for more literature led Pellegrino to garage sales and used-book stores, where he obtained inexpensive volumes. Eventually his hobby evolved into a business venture.
He opened his own store, initially named Via Pellegrino, some 30 years ago in Henrietta. The name has changed, and so has its location over the years, from Village Gate and East Avenue to its current location, where the business has been since 2005.
The store specializes in modern and classic literature, as well as children's books. Various editions and printings are available, such as first editions of Charles Dickens' and Mark Twain's works.
Prices start at $1 for paperbacks and can reach $2,000 to $3,000 for rare books.
The business has two part-time workers whose hours depend on their availability. He also has the help of one volunteer.
Small World Books serves perhaps 20 in-store customers weekly. Pellegrino targets serious readers and collectors; though it has a physical presence, much of the business is conducted online. Pellegrino says he uses Alibris, an online marketplace for used-book dealers, plus Advanced Book Exchange and eBay to sell books.
Pellegrino sells to customers such as Barnes & Noble through Alibris, but the majority of his online business comes from eBay. He sells an average of 12 books a day online, though he has sold 20 or more in a day. Eighty percent of his business comes from online sales.
Pellegrino's books have gone to Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany. Roughly 30 percent of what he sells online is sent to California.
Pricing his books is a challenge, Pellegrino says. He regards it as important not to overprice books but still to make a profit from them. It also has been tough to raise awareness about his store.
Pellegrino acquires books from estate sales and library sales. He also receives calls from people looking to sell their books. He especially looks for work by literary greats-William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
"What a classic is, is it's a book that lasts through many years," Pellegrino says. "People keep on reading it, and it gets published over and over again."
He realizes that the timeless classics are read and taught in each generation.
"I think good literature always sells," Pellegrino says.
His goal for the business is to increase sales and encourage a love of literature. Patrons of Small World Books find an owner eager to discuss books.
"I like to promote literature," he says. "That's always been one of the larger goals."
Theresa Sullivan was a former Rochester Business Journal intern.
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