For years, Sara Ornelas thought about opening a children’s bookstore in Wichita, but the cost of renting a retail space was always too high.
Then a friend suggested she go the route of food trucks and put a store on wheels. Thus did Blue Baboon Books hit the road this summer.
“The cost was about one-tenth of what a brick-and-mortar location would cost,” Ornelas said.
The bookstore is housed in a 7-by-16-foot trailer that Ornelas had custom built. It has both a side door and back entrance, plus room for a cash register, customers and somewhere north of 800 volumes for sale on its shelves.
She parks the trailer at schools, coffee shops, festivals, food truck rallies and other events.
Ornelas, who also works as a transcriptionist and substitute teacher, said owning a bookstore appealed to her “for so many reasons.”
“First of all, I love reading. My kids love reading. I’ve been reading to them since the day they came home from the hospital.”
Family favorites include the “Harry Potter” books, the “Big Nate” series and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” soon to be made into a movie. The name of her store, by the way, is not a reference to any particular book or character.
“We just thought it had good alliteration,” she said. “And baboons are likable creatures. At least in books.”
Ornelas offers schools 5 percent of her sales, or 10 percent in free books.
“At my last one, I made $1,100 in an hour and a half, and they got $110 in free books,” she said.
That also saves schools the trouble of setting up a book fair, she said. McLean and Cleveland elementary schools in Wichita, Pleasantview Elementary in Derby, Valley Center Intermediate School and the Ascension Lutheran and Asbury Church preschools are places where she has parked her bus.
Ornelas has also conducted story hours for preschoolers at the Donut Whole, Reverie Coffee Roasters, College Hill Creamery, Twisted Java and other establishments. She plans to be at the Valley Center Fall Festival on Friday and Saturday.
Ornelas said her books are intended for infants up to young adults and range in price from $3.99 to about $40.
Despite the trailer-based bookstore’s quick start, Ornelas says, she still wants to open a traditional brick-and-mortar retail outlet on the city’s west side.
“But I still want to keep the trailer and go to schools,” she said. “The kids have been really excited to be inside.”