Centralia Bookstore More Than Just a Place to Buy Books | Business

Reading can capture the imagination and fuel the heart’s drive for adventure. 

Tilikum Books is a departure point for such literary journeys. 

Located at 115 N Tower Ave. in Centralia, the store offers 62 different categories of used books. 

“Basically, I’m sitting in a storehouse of knowledge,” owner Geary Lockard said. 

Even the name, Tilikum, is rooted in adventure. In 1900, Captain John Voss, a German-Canadian sailor, purchased a 30-foot dugout canoe from one of the First Nations in British Columbia. He built a cabin on it, installed a couple masts and christened it “Tilikum.” He then sailed it around the world. 

The word tilikum means friend in the trade language used by the pioneers and the Native Americans, Lockard said. It also has different spellings.

When Lockard bought the store in the mid-1990s, it already had the name.

“I thought it was such a great story so I kept the name,” he said. 

The Tilikum still survives, Lockard said. In 1965, it was moved to a maritime museum in Victoria. 

Lockard moved the store from Olympia to Centralia in 2000 and settled in his storefront on Tower Avenue eight years ago. 

“The store is better now than it ever has been,” he said. 

Unlike new bookstores, Lockard doesn’t look to stock the top 10 bestsellers. Instead, he looks for a variety of titles ranging from westerns and romance to nonfiction and the classics. 

“The theory is, you got to buy good books when offered to you,” he said. “You shoot from the hip a little bit when you are in the used book market, or any used market.” 

He takes books in on credit and has a buy-back policy so after a person reads a book they can return it to the store for half the value in store credit. Then, on their next purchase, they can use their credit to cover half the purchase while the other half has to be paid for in cash. Lockard said it helps him keep his inventory up and it is good for readers because it allows them to keep their collections circulating.   

Aside from selling books, he also has a few shelves of old tools and antiques. When he first started renting the storefront, it was larger than what he needed for his books, so he had another vendor come in and sell other items such as antiques. They would come and go and eventually stopped coming. 

Prior to owning the bookstore, Lockard worked as a carpenter in Shelton, so he knew all about tools. He decided to put out a few old tools to fill the empty shelves. His collection grew from there. 

But the best part about operating the store is interacting and having stimulating conversations with the people who walk through the door, he said. 

“There are a lot of great people out there,” Lockard said. “They turn out to be friends.” 

For a time, he also binded books to repair them. The most memorable moment in Lockard’s career comes from that side of his business.

An elderly woman came into his store to have a Bible bound. It had a metal cover and was issued by the Navy during World War II. Her husband carried the Bible in his pocket every day he was at war and kept it with him upon his return. She was getting it repaired for her grandson who was a police officer in Mason County. He wanted to have his grandfather’s Bible in his pocket while he was on duty. 

When Lockard returned the repaired Bible to the woman, he saw in her eyes a level of joy and excitement.

Lockard never expected to find himself selling books, but he stumbled upon a book called “The Complete Guide to Starting a Used Bookstore” by D.L. Gilbert. After reading it, he had a dream that Tilikum Books in Olympia was for sale. The next morning, he went to the bookstore and found out from the owner it was for sale. 

Three months later the store was his.   

“In essence it is a dream come true,” he said, “literally.” 

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