Vigilant Books in Wheeling, West Virginia, has had quite the journey during its relatively short time in operation. Owner Chuck Wood originally purchased an old firehouse in town with plans of opening his secondhand bookshop there, but the cost of needed repairs was simply too high. He then landed at his Market Street location in the fall of 2019, only to be forced into closure the following March for fifteen months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His persistence, however, has not only finally seen the shop reopen but has led to the creation of what Chuck and fellow entrepreneurs are calling The Wheeling Book District.
“Within four blocks there are three bookshops,” he says.
Just a few doors down from Vigilant is Point of the Heart bookshop (more on that soon), while the beloved Paradox Bookstore – West Virginia’s oldest indie bookshop – is a few blocks away.
Chuck reopened Vigilant Books in June of 2021, holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the same day Point of the Heart opened its doors, and the three businesses are embracing one another as friends, not competitors.
“We’re collaborative. We’re not competitive,” he told The Intelligencer in 2021. “We each have an idiosyncratic sort of collection of books.”
And he’s right. Chuck’s diverse inventory features an impressive collection of everything from classics to contemporary, rarities to children’s books, and everything in between. The tidy shop is well laid out and nicely organized, with eclectic artwork and handwritten quotes peppered throughout. A Virginia Woolf quote by the front register reads, “Secondhand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.” It serves as a sort of theme for the store.
“These are the wild, homeless books here,” Chuck says, referring to his inventory, which is derived entirely from donations. “It’s an amazing business model where everything I sell is given to me!”
A lifelong lover of books and used bookshops, Vigilant is certainly a passion project for Chuck, who still holds down a day job, writes a magazine column about astronomy, and does some other work to make ends meet.
“During the week, we usually don’t sell enough books to pay the young lady who works here,” he admits. “My goal is just to break even until I get better established.”
With and impressive collection and convenient location, coupled with his personal charm and open collaboration with his fellow booksellers, here’s hoping that Vigilant Books goes well beyond simply breaking even in the burgeoning Wheeling Book District.
Vigilant Books is located at 1900 Market Street in Wheeling, West Virginia. The shop is open Tuesday through Saturday.