(L–R) Lila, Tony and Catherine Weller carry on the Weller Book Works legacy while in tandem modernizing and revolutionizing the business with each generation.

Unveiling the Unknown: Weller Book Works

Lifestyle

Founded in the late ‘20s by Gustav Weller, the ever-evolving Weller Book Works now lies in the hands of Tony, Catherine and Lila Weller. As an LDS convert from Germany, Gustav’s bookstore initially oriented itself around LDS literature. The store’s five relocations and myriad of names all followed the generational passing of ownership and fluctuating staff. “Each generation of our family has been substantially more liberal-spirited than the previous generation,” says Tony. As the Weller generations procured more liberal identities, the store naturally adjusted by broadening their offered content far beyond LDS literature. For example, they now offer a breadth of literature ranging from history to sci-fi, young adult and children’s books to philosophy, nonfiction to poetry. Catherine says, “One of the things about small or family businesses is that their stores carry the imprint, very deeply, of the owners. As this store’s ownership has changed with each generation, the store has changed because the imprint has changed.”

Additionally, there is an ongoing saying that people do not get hired at Weller Book Works but, rather, adopted. “We try to support each other and have deep relationships with the people who work with us so that it is not an exceedingly hierarchical relationship,” says Catherine. “It is a relationship of intellectual peers, and we try to recognize what everybody brings to the table.” Working in a bookstore also necessitates a passion for literature. Lila says, “Everybody who works in or runs a bookstore is there because they care. I think having a family element as a part of that cements our work in a different way. It enhances a sense of importance and a sense of community, in my eyes.”


“It is fun having this interaction with people who would never be able to browse our inventory in person. It is a new way to connect.”

Weller Book Works houses an array of classics, underground new releases and just about everything in between.
Photo: John Barkiple

This year, Weller Book Works has celebrated its 90th anniversary and, throughout its journey, has made operational changes. As an early adopter of technological shifts, Weller Book Works now interacts with a variety of moving pieces like their online Newsletter Archives catalogue for searching for books, their blog and their calendar of events. While it has become more complex, Lila says, “It is fun having this interaction with people who would never be able to browse our inventory in person. It is a new way to connect.” These shifts allow Weller Book Works to market their books globally. Tony says, “It also gives us reach for obscure things. We might find something here that someone in our town isn’t needing, but there is someone all the way across the world who has been looking for that item.”

Unfortunately, these advancements have caused browsing without intention to become a valued rarity. Catherine loves to see customers browsing for books because reading itself is a discovery. Moreover, browsing without intentions remains paramount in the art of discovery. Tony articulates that when we choose things that bring us joy, we are choosing from the spectrum of the known. “There is always that one thing, just beyond your awareness, that could be very good for you, but you don’t know about it yet,” he says. “That is the value that a bookstore provides when we browse without intentions.”


“Everybody who works in or runs a bookstore is there because they care. I think having a family element as a part of that cements our work in a different way.”

The Weller family is a group of lifelong readers and all-around book lovers.
Photo: John Barkiple

As a queer person growing up in Weller Book Works’ environment, Lila states that while identities do matter, they don’t matter in the context of one’s existence as a person in this space. All are welcome to express and explore themselves in this bookstore. Additionally, Lila affirms that Weller Book Works offers a space where you can feel comfortable to explore your interests and inclinations. “We have always tried to be that space where you can be accepted for who you are,” says Catherine. Weller Book Works centers its events around the safe space it provides by encouraging discussion and consequential connections. One of the many events that they offer is their free-form Breakfast Club, held every Tuesday morning from 10–11 a.m. Catherine says, “What they strive to accomplish is to connect with people.” All of their events are tailored for people to broaden their knowledge and perspectives while synchronously connecting with others. “We are in it for the books,” says Tony. “We believe in the written word. We believe in what books can do for a person or for a community, be that enlightenment, education, awareness or entertainment.”

Weller Book Works’ legacy includes offering a colorful community an array of books that make connections between the unfamiliar and familiar. Catherine says, “I would hope that our legacy continues to be [that we have] all kinds of books for all kinds of people.” The Wellers’ bookstore also yields the means—literature—to unite with the unfamiliar or unknown. Tony says, “One thing I like about a bookstore is that I see it as a bridge that bridges all cultural chasms, from local to foreign, from present to ancient. We find those things here.”


“We believe in the written word. We believe in what books can do for a person or for a community, be that enlightenment, education, awareness or entertainment.”

This bookstore offers a multitude of books that indulge interests and cultivate curiosities. Books take individuals’ “knowledge” and puts it up for trial. “Your ideas are forced open by books: the exposure it gives you to other cultures and ways of thinking,” Tony says. “It’s hard to maintain narrow perspectives when all the thoughts of humanity are in your face every day.” Language allows us to understand, connect and share ideas with each other. Literature is the art of language, and to view it as obsolete or tedious is to discount an intrinsic aspect of being human. To find out more about Weller Book Works, visit their website at wellerbookworks.com.


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Weller Book Works 90th Anniversary Party
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