In April 1999, Patricia McFarland bought Book Tales from a friend who was nice enough to finance the bookstore for her. McFarland paid the loan in six years, despite city sidewalk and street renovation work in 1999 and 2000, which closed a cross street for six months. McFarland got by, maintaining a second job to help pay the bills.
Just over a year ago, McFarland secured a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loan for $35,000 through Capital One, which allowed her to obtain a good lease with a three-year extension option. She also used a portion of the loan to improve the interior and exterior of her business.
In addition to the physical improvements of the bookstore, McFarland attributes some of her success to branding and a book exchange, business ideas that are unique to the area. She also hosts Used Book Store Crawls, which are bus tours of local used bookstores in San Diego County. McFarland's slogan is, "Books! Don't sit down without one!"
Patricia's store is cozy and well kept and, although not large, the organized assortment of used books is in remarkably good condition. Book Tales offers a wealth of nonfiction and collectible books at higher prices. Customers include many bargain hunters, so prices are set competitively for more expensive books, as well as less expensive ones. During the past few years, Book Tales has also become an active Internet bookseller. McFarland attributes her high customer-satisfaction ratings to the firm's guarantee of accurate book descriptions, careful packaging and immediate shipping.
McFarland says what she likes the most about owning her bookstore is the flexibility to change and improve her business. For those who may be thinking of someday becoming entrepreneurs, McFarland recommends purchasing an existing business and improving it. She's looking forward to opening a second location in the near future.
"Patricia McFarland is a good example of what a small business owner can do to improve the quality of life and the economic vitality of the community," said Ruben Garcia, SBA's district director for the San Diego area. "Local small business owners and entrepreneurs should know that SBA is ready to assist them, either through government-backed loans or through resource partners who can provide training, counseling and technical assistance."
For more information about SBA loan programs call (619) 557-7250 or go to sba.gov/ca/sandiego.