Gerry Burnett opened Buckeye Bend Books in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, for a rather simple reason: his barn was so full of books, he could no longer fit his tractors in there. An avid reader and book collector, Gerry had long been storing his collection in his Greene County, Virginia barn. When he retired from teaching in the late 1990s, he began searching for a place to move his massive set of volumes, and opening a bookstore seemed the perfect fit.
Finding the right location, however, proved elusive. Living near Charlottesville, Virginia, Gerry quickly learned that real estate prices were steep in the city. After expanding his search across state lines, he found his way to the old Buckeye School building in Buckeye, West Virginia, which hadn’t operated as a school in more than 50 years.
“I drove by here one day and I saw this building,” he told the Beckley Register-Herald in 2018. “I didn’t pay much attention to it, but I drove by about six months later, and it was still for sale. I said, ‘I might look into it. It’s got a lot of space, and I can store a lot of books.’”
Soon after, Gerry’s collection began filling the shelves of the old building, which had been used as a community center and storage building in recent years. Now the building, which may look a little small to passersby but actually runs rather deep with multiple rooms, nooks and crannies, is full of books, posters, magazines, artwork, comics, records, and other ephemera.
Carrying around 35,000 to 40,000 titles, the inventory at Buckeye Bend Books is large and diverse. Customers will find everything from children’s books to history, travel, science fiction, thrillers, classics, and more. There’s also a large collection of nearly 2,000 cookbooks of which Gerry is particularly proud.
There are even books dating back to the 1800s thanks to Gerry’s years of collecting vintage titles from flea markets, yard sales, and estate sales. It was a passion that began in high school and expanded in college, when he lucked into the inventory of a bookstore owned by a friend’s deceased grandfather – an inventory that included several first-edition novels dating from the 1920s through the 1950s. The passion only grew from there and has resulted in the impressive collection available at Buckeye Bend Books.
While maintaining residence in Virginia, Gerry only opens Buckeye Bend Books sporadically during the spring, summer and early fall months. And, in his downtime, he continues to expand his collection – because a book lover is always a book lover.
“Books are important,” he told the Beckley Register-Herald. “They’ll be here if people take care of them. There are an awful lot of people that value books, and I do.”
Buckeye Bend Books is located at 14044 Seneca Trail, Buckeye, West Virginia. The shop is open seasonably, typically spring through fall Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Keep an eye on the shop’s Facebook page for details or, if you find yourself in the area, look for the roadside signage indicating the store is open.
For more on Buckeye Bend Books and other West Virginia bookshops, order a signed copy of Bookstore Explorer: West Virginia!