COVER Store to launch books program

by Alec Rossi | 3/30/18 2:40am

The COVER Store in White River Junction recently launched a program called COVERBooks to sell donated books online to customers around the country, in addition to its current operations as a thrift store that sells donated materials such as furniture, appliances and building materials.

Co-founded 20 years ago by Nancy Bloomfield ’99 and carpenter Simon Dennis, COVER Home Repair uses COVER Store proceeds to perform free home repairs for low-income families, the elderly and the disabled in the Upper Valley region.

When COVER executive director Bill Neukomm first joined COVER two years ago, he said it sold donated books in the store.

“If we did $50 in book sales a month, that was a lot,” he said. “It seemed to me that we either had to get out of the book business or do something different.”

He added that while the Upper Valley is a book-rich and donor-positive environment, the store was not sure if it was a great book-selling environment.

The COVER Store got the idea to start selling books online from another thrift store in Massachusetts that supports a food pantry.

COVERBooks started with three to four hundred books posted on its Amazon store. It currently has around 1,500 books for sale, according to Neukomm. While Amazon charges a flat-rate sellers fee and takes a percentage of each sale, the venture has proven to be successful so far.

“If we can get above 45 books a month in sales, and that is about where we are right now, anything we do above that is basically pure profit,” Neukomm said.

Miriam Jones volunteers at the COVER Store and helps with selling and organizing the donated books.

“First and foremost, we need books and we need specifically books that are in near mint or mint condition,” Jones said. “We really need books that are under 20 years old and ideally non-fiction or else literary fiction.”

Books that are focused on spirituality, self-help, philosophy and history are selling more successfully than mass market books, according to Neukomm.

To spread the word about its community efforts, COVERBooks includes a printout in each book telling the customer about its mission to foster hope and build community through building projects.

In the future, the store hopes to continue making a profit and increase their inventory of books.

“We are still growing … but within a year, we’d like to be doing better than breaking even,” Jones said, adding that the company wants to triple its inventory and maximize volunteer productivity.

Neukomm said that selling books has given the store a chance to raise more money to finance its building projects.

“There is a little bit of magic to what we do, but it absolutely works,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for a long time and we are pretty excited for this opportunity.”

Neukomm said that COVER relies on the work of volunteers to help with building projects.

“[COVER is] essentially an organization of volunteers who are committed to doing urgent home repairs,” said Neukomm.

Hartford town manager Leo Pullar added that the company impacts the community in an important way.

“The repair that they do to homes of families in need has a tremendous positive impact on both the family and the community,” Pullar said. “Folks who have a good, safe place to live tend to be happier and better contributing members of our community.”

Supervised and coached by experienced carpenters employed by COVER Home Repair, crews of volunteers are dispatched in the Upper Valley to complete a variety of building projects. Neukomm said that anyone, regardless of past home improvement experience, is able to volunteer.

“There isn’t any specific skill requirement to volunteer on a cover job,” Neukomm said. “We just want you to show up.”

Pullar said the COVER Store is strongly supported by town voters.

“[COVER] comes to us for an appropriation every year and it is overwhelmingly supported as an organization — 85 to 90 percent yesses,” he said.

According to Neukomm, many Dartmouth students shop at the thrift store and donate used furniture once they graduate. The store’s proceeds are used to help finance the home improvement programs completed by volunteers.