Time to Turn Page for Kitty, Sandman

MAY 18, 2013. PUNTA GORDA. By Barbara Bean-Mellinger

Kitty-Wan Kenobi slinks thorugh Sandman Books with the understated pride of ownership only a cat can posess. As he roams the aisles, he couldn't care less that he can lay partial claim to the largest independent bookstore in Southwest Florida. 

Or that Sandman will celebrate its fourth year Thursday with all the fanfare of a grand opening. 

Food? Lots of people? Well... OK, maybe he'll perk up for that. 

"Kitty-Wan Kenobi is a people cat, and he loves to be petted, even by strangers," said Heidi Lange, who co-owns Sandman with Scott Hill. 

"We rescued Kitty-Wan about the same time we opened the store four years ago," Lange said. 

Lange and Hill started the business online 10 years ago. After buying and selling their college textbooks online, they realized there was a big market for used books. 

But as books took over their garage, then the living room, the two began to look for warehouse space to house the growing library. Instead, they found space in Turtle Crossing Plaza. 

Sandman carries all types of used and new books - including a large sci-fi section, which most used bookstores don't have. The owners also carry a lot of local authors' books, a often hold book signings or other author events, such as poetry readings or talks. 

"For some reason, we also have a lot of German-language books. They're big sellers here," Lange said.

Email customers are notified about the store's big sales, which happen once a month or so. One month it might be a buy-one-get-one sale, or half off a certain genre, or 25 percent off local authors' books, or half off anything in the back room. Sometimes they'll hold a "bag sale," where customers can fill a paper grocery store bag for $5 with books from the tables out front. 

"The record was 67 books in one bag," said Lange, though many of those were children's books. 

By the end of August, the store will have expanded to a space just a few doors down - still in the Turtle Crossing Plaza - more than tripling its space, from 2,100 square feet to 7,300 square feet. This expansion - the second since opening - will allow Sandman to offer more history books, especially about the Civil War and World War II, and more books about religion. 

Lange is especially excited to be able to have a new section of vinyle records, and a separate area with a window where customers can take their old books for store credit. 

Hill built all the bookshelves in the store and is busy building more for the new, expanded space. He's also working on a piece of art in the shape of an archway - covered with books, of course. 

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