Wild Iris Books

Co-owner Erica Merrell happy with progress in new location

Erica Merrell is the co-owner of Wild Iris Books, an independent feminist book store that offers books of all genres.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:09 p.m.

Wild Iris Books is thriving in its new location on the outskirts of downtown Gainesville.

Formerly located on W. University Avenue, Wild Iris Books moved last year to its current location at 22 SE 5th Ave., Suite D, behind a storefront of businesses that include the Civic Media Center. In fact, the book store shares its courtyard with the Civic Media Center.

Erica Merrell, co-owner of the book store with Cheryl Calhoun, said financial considerations drove the move to the downtown location.

"It was bittersweet to have to move," Merrell said. "Sometimes you're sad and can't quite understand why you're losing things, but it's just preparing you for something better. The support here has been amazing."

Merrell said Wild Iris is an independent feminist book store that offers books of all genres, including children's books, fiction, non-fiction, spiritual, cooking, parenting, minority books, travel, bilingual and more. It also sells eBook readers, greeting cards, incense, journals, magnets and other gift items.

Hardcover books sell for 20 percent to 40 percent off retail prices, used books are up to 75 percent off retail and clearance items are less than $5. There also is a free book box at the front door that contains books the store receives from publishers, some of which have not been published.

"Before you buy from Amazon, check with me," Merrell said. We'll do our best to match it."

She said Wild Iris is not limited by its 400-square-feet size because of a strong presence online at wildirisbooks.com, which offers a huge selection of books. Merrell said customers have the opportunity to order and pay for their purchases online and save on shipping by picking items up at the store.

"We have the ability to order anything in print," Merrell said. "We can get you anything you want. We're all about service."

She said the book store hosts community events, including "open mic" night at 7:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month, and it participates in Art Walk, which is held from 7-10 p.m. the last Friday of the month.

Merrell said Wild Iris Books has a central feminist mission to honor every kind of experience and create equality for the marginalized population, such as LGBT, minorities and those with special needs.

"Feminism is sometimes misunderstood," Merrell said. "Feminism is about empowerment and helping people."

Merrell, 36, lived in Miami before moving here to get married. Her background in the book business includes working as a corporate manager for Borders Books in Miami and working at Books-A-Million here.

Her involvement with Wild Iris Books started when she joined Friends of Wild Iris Books, a not-for-profit organization established in 2006. She became co-owner five years ago and operates Wild Iris Books with the help of volunteers.

Merrell said co-owner Calhoun has an information technology background and is a professor at Santa Fe College. Calhoun, who has co-owned the book store for 10 years, manages the online store, social networking and other online activities.

Merrell said independent book stores are struggling to stay open.

"In general, I think people are trying to come back," Merrell said. "I know there is a place for us in the book industry. Books are important. Books still matter."

Hours of operation are 1-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. The phone number is 352-375-7477.

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