Some of the best stories at aren’t on the shelves.
There was the time a customer came in after combing several other stores on a hunt for the novel River God by Wilbur Smith. He asked owner Bud Burwell if he carried the book. Burwell spun on the spot, plucked the book from a shelf and handed it to him.
There was the time that a woman came in, snapping photos in every corner, to recreate her first date with her boyfriend - a date that had included time at the bookshop. She did it so she could send the photos to comfort him on his overseas deployment.
Or there was the time Burwell and his wife Susan, co-owner of the shop, set to painstakingly conduct inventory of every title, ignoring the advice of a former owner that there were 22,000 and they shouldn’t bother.
“And we came up with what?” Susan Burwell recalls.
“22,011,” Bud Burwell chimes in, shaking his head.
The Burwells have owned the shop at 1623 Washington Plaza at Lake Anne Plaza since 1999, when Bud Burwell retired from teaching special education in the Fairfax County Public Schools. Several years before, Bud Burwell had also started working part-time at the bookstore, which he had wandered into one rainy Sunday.
“This place was a little jewel. I loved being in here,” he said. So the part-time job led to an offer to buy the place when Restonians Sue Schram and Sue Wensell, who had founded it in 1978, decided it was time to retire.
“I said 'I was down here all the time anyway, so I’m going to do it,' ” Bud Burwell says.
Just don’t ask what “it” is. The Burwells could spend a couple of hours – if they could get away from their customers for that long – describing everything that goes on at the book shop. They do far more than buy, sell and trade books, which is part of the reason the shop continues to thrive even as the thirst for digital titles forces many other brick-and-mortar bookstores to close.
- On the third Monday of each month, the shop hosts a book club. Not so unusual, but the format is -- “People don’t all read the same book,” Susan Burwell says. “People just bring whatever they’re reading and share it.
- The shop participates with Art in Public Places, showcasing Reston artists on its walls. A special corner of the shop is devoted to books by Reston authors.
- It hosts a literature roundtable in conjunction with George Mason University’s chapter of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
- It’s the place to go in the summer if you want to rent a boat on Lake Anne. “We’re ticket central,” Susan Burwell says.
- Bud Burwell books musicians who play Saturdays at the Reston Farmers Market.
- Four times a year, on months that feature a fifth Sunday, the shop hosts a Bluegrass Jam. About 20 people bring instruments and play, while many more gather around.
- Every day of the year, it’s a place to hang out, especially if you want to talk books or politics. Folks who come in often even have a special name. They are FRUBS (Friends of Reston's Used Book Shop.)
“It’s a community place," Susan Burwell says.