And submitting an entrance fee.

By Liz Steelman
Updated July 24, 2017
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Have you ever had a dream of owning your own bookstore? Well, the only thing that could be standing between you and that dream coming true might be a measly 250-word essay and a check for $75. The owners of a local bookshop in Pennsylvania are holding an essay contest where the winner inherits the store from the retiring couple.

Kevin and Kasey Coolidge opened From My Shelf Books & Gifts in downtown Wellsboro, Pennsylvania in 2006 after outgrowing the bookselling operation they ran from their shared apartment. In the 11 years since opening the only bookstore in town, the space has amassed a loyal following and a special place in the local culture.

The store isn’t the only thing in the Coolidge’s life that has taken off since then: In the past few years Kevin’s children’s book series The Totally Ninja Raccoons has taken off, too, leading the couple to question what they want the next decade of their lives to consist of. But one thing was for sure: They didn’t want to leave their hometown without a well-stocked bookshop.

So earlier this month, the owners of the bookshop announced a contest: Whoever wrote the best 250-word essay about why a bookstore is important to a community (and paid a $75 entrance fee) would inherit the 1,100-square-foot store, the full inventory and customer base, experienced staff, consultation from the previous owners, as well as a refund on their entry fee.

To ensure that the winners are set up for success, the Coolidges have one stipulation: 4,000 entries must be received by March 31, 2018 in order for there to be a winner, since 4,000 $75 entry fees is what is needed to cover the first six months of rent for the bookstore, as well as transfer ownership of current inventory, shelves, and signage. The owners will extend the contest 60 days if they do not have 4,000 entries by the end of March, but will close the contest, return all entry fees, and continue to run the store if that number is not met.

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If all goes as planned, the winner is contractually obligated to own and operate the store for one year. After the year, they can sell the business, with agreement from the previous owners.

Sound like a dream come true? For full contest rules, entry forms, as well as legal contracts, head to the My Shelf Books & Gifts blog. Want a handful of great reads instead of the responsibility of a store? Check out our favorite new books this month.