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Ketchum Bookstore Asks Community To Save It From Bankruptcy

Sarah hedrick

Ketchum’s Iconoclast Books has been a fixture in the community for 20 years. But next month, the store will permanently close its doors unless owner Sarah Hedrick can raise $85,000 to pay off debts.

Hedrick and her late husband Gary Hunt were partners in their bookstore. They each had different jobs. Hedrick says she had all the fun ones.

“Buying and merchandising and finding new lines, that kind of stuff,” Hedrick says. “And he was definitely the person in the office.”   

Hedrick says she never looked at the accounts until her husband died in a car accident six years ago. That’s when she discovered Iconoclast Books was deep in debt.

“I was probably 10 days widowed when I met with my attorney, my accountant and my bank to outline what my plan was going to be,” she says.  

Hedrick decided to keep the store. She says she’s been slowly paying the debt ever since. And the store had been doing OK until last August, when the Beaver Creek Fire shut down Ketchum.

“I knew a couple days into that fire that this could very well be what sinks us,” Hedrick says. “We literally lost the two busiest weeks of the year. All kinds of things were canceled including the Sun Valley writers conference, which is a huge weekend and event for us.”

A slow ski season followed. Now, Hedrick says she can no longer keep paying down her debts and the store's operating expenses. So, she started a fundraising campaign on the website Indegogo. Hedrick has one more week to meet her goal. She’s already 80 percent of the way there. Hedrick says if she doesn’t make it, she’ll have to file for bankruptcy. But Hedrick knows the big question she has to answer is why her community should save her store.

“The community certainly does not owe Iconoclast Books or Sarah Hedrick personally anything,” she says. “My hope is that they see the value of what we’ve done for the last 20 years and they want that. That they don’t want to be a town without a bookstore. Or that they don’t want a chain bookstore to take our place.”

To be fair, Ketchum has another bookstore called Chapter One. The two booksellers are in an exclusive club. According to the trade group American Booksellers Association, there are only five independent stores that sell new books in all of southwest and central Idaho, and nine statewide. That doesn't include college campus or religious bookstores.

That brings up the other big question. Even if Hedrick can get past her current financial troubles, can a brick-and-mortar bookstore stay in business long term? Hedrick says that there is enough demand in the Wood River Valley for a bookstore. And there is some good news for an industry that saw decades of decline. The Associated Press reports this week that for the fifth year in a row, the number of independent book stores in the U.S. has gone up.

The Wood River Valley's KDPIRadio helped with this story.

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