Judy Barnes spends quite a bit of time hunting for books. No two are alike and Barnes appreciates that. She keeps her eyes peeled for rare antiques as well, taking her finds back to Nelson County, where she artistically places them all in their correct spots.
It is here, in Blue Moon Antique Mall and Bookstore, on U.S. 29 in Lovingston, that Barnes and her husband of almost 16 years, Larry Whitaker, take such pride in their 20,000-square-foot business. Barnes and Whitaker run the mall with their three companions: Labrador mixes Maisie and Sadie, and English Labrador Rex.
As for the name?
Barnes said she owned the same type of business in Athens, Georgia and when she signed the lease for the place there, she saw a blue moon.
“I like to carry things you might only find once in a blue moon,” she said. “We like to find things that you won’t see anywhere else.”
After she moved to Nelson to be closer to her husband, the two of them opened Blue Moon in 2006. The building once was used to manufacture children’s clothing. Blue Moon used to be open daily until 2008, when the economy slowed. Now, it is open Thursday through Saturday, and closed in January and February.
“Now it gives us a chance to go to the store, go to the doctor, dentist…human things, typical living,” Whitaker said. “So you’re not 24/7 here. We would like to be open more but at the same time, traffic isn’t what it once was.”
Barnes and Whitaker enjoy helping customers find unique products, saying “you never know what you’re going to find.”
The space is half filled from top to bottom with book titles in all categories and the other half with antiques from space that vendors rent.
Everyone is looking for something different and Barnes said she enjoys walking down memory lane with folks when they find something special.
“If you go into Barnes and Noble or Books-A-Million, they have hundreds of books of one title but I have hundreds of thousands of titles of one book,” Barnes said
Whitaker still believes in the power of a printed book over an e-reader.
“Electronic devices are fantastic, but there’s still just something about the physical presence of holding a book,” he said.
The couple said things can get tricky when having to deal with day-to-day tasks of operating a business — things like taxes, credit card companies and compliances.
“There are more hoops to jump through,” Whitaker said. “Things are just a little bit more complicated than they used to be.”
But at the end of the day, both Barnes and Whitaker said it’s the customer service they take the most pride in.
“We enjoy helping people find other things around town, a good restaurant or help give directions,” Barnes said.
“It’s part of that local charm,” Whitaker added.