Heights' venerable WordsWorth Books finds new owners 

There's hope for the local bookstore.

click to enlarge IN THE BOOK BUSINESS: Lia Lent and Tom McGowan, the new owners of WordsWorth Books in the Heights.
  • IN THE BOOK BUSINESS: Lia Lent and Tom McGowan, the new owners of WordsWorth Books in the Heights.

It looked for a while like even the most beloved of local bookstores would go swirling away down the Amazon, swamped as they were by cheap online sales and the rise of convenient e-books. There are, however, still a few examples that have hung on, mostly through a combination of customer service and local loyalty.

Luckily for Little Rock, that increasingly short list includes Words-Worth Books & Co. in the Heights. In business for over 35 years, WordsWorth has not only weathered the economic storms that have buffeted and sunk many independent booksellers, it has managed to attract new owners who are committed to keeping the friendly, cozy feel that has kept the place alive, even with two Barnes & Noble Bookstores within a five-mile radius.

Lia Lent and Tom McGowan, both longtime WordsWorth customers, bought the bookstore from owner Jean Cazort and officially took the reins June 1. Lent, who has been shopping at WordsWorth for over 20 years, said things have been going smoothly so far as they learn the business from Cazort, who has stayed on as an employee to help them learn the ropes.

Lent said she decided to buy the bookstore for a reason that will be familiar to any bibliophile who has ever wished upon a star: Running a bookstore sounded like fun. "If you like to read books and you like to talk about books, what could be better than owning a bookstore?" she said. "There's the business end of it, which is not so dreamy. Was it the draw of becoming rich? No. ... I think it was the opportunity to bring in good books, bring in new customers, serving the needs of existing customers." Little Rock, Lent said, deserves a great independent bookstore.

That doesn't mean, however, that she and McGowan are sitting around in easy chairs, reading all day. There are still real challenges for the business.

"I think things have stabilized somewhat for bookstores," she said. "The economic headwinds are still pretty strong. Ten years ago, they were closing hundreds and hundreds [of bookstores] a year, but there's been a resurgence. It seemed like it was an opportune time."

Lent said her goal is to build on the legacy of the store, continuing to cultivate the community of local readers while expanding opportunities for customers to share, talk about and experience new books. Lent said changes will be coming, but they will be small and undramatic. For example, they've changed the hours — from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — to allow people coming home from work to stop in and browse. The name will subtly change, too, from WordsWorth Books & Co. to Words-Worth Bookstore. They'll also rearrange the store somewhat to set aside space for classes and workshops. Lent said she plans to survey customers to identify areas where the store can expand its titles, and may host topical book clubs.

"We still want to focus, as Jean has, on Arkansas writers and give them a prominent place," Lent said. "We're planning to do more in-store events and activities." Lent said the store will also continue to build on its close relationship with the Clinton School of Public Service, partnering with it on author events and readings by the nationally known writers who lecture there.

Lent said the fact that WordsWorth has survived past challenges — including the rise of big-box booksellers, Amazon.com, the 2008 recession and the shift to e-books — is remarkable, and it says a lot about the customers who frequent the store and their support for local businesses.

"The exciting thing," Lent said, "is that people are reading — reading and talking and sharing; talking about new ways of writing. It all contributes to the quality of life in our community."


From the ArkTimes store


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by David Koon

  • The student-led Memory Project at Central takes history high tech

    With stories that matter.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Central High 60th anniversary

    A schedule of events, consideration of the past and the future, and more.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Join us Sept. 21 for Pig & Swig!

    Make plans to join Arkansas Times at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 for Pig & Swig, an event centered around two of life's finest pleasures: sippin' whiskey and fine swine. The event, which benefits the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, will be held at the Heifer Project Pavilion and Urban Farm near the Clinton Center.
    • Sep 18, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • 2016 Best of Arkansas editors' picks

    A few of our favorite things.
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Visionary Arkansans 2016

    They make an impact.
    • Sep 15, 2016

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation