Once Valerie Burkholder retired early this spring, after working for 28 years, she decided to follow her lifelong dream of opening a bookstore.
With a grand opening set for Saturday, July 14, she and her husband, Pat Burkholder, will open Epilogue Books in Rockford. The couple shares a strong love of reading and a mission to share that with the community.
“Pat and I have always been physical book people and love the feel of a book in my hand, turning the pages, even the smell of a new book,” she said. “The digital world is nice if I know exactly what I want. However, if I don’t it can be overwhelming and there’s nothing quite like walking into a small bookstore and looking at covers and getting recommendations from staff. We think there are a lot of people out there that feel similarly.”
The Burkholder’s have been reading all their lives; Pat, mainly non-fiction, and Valerie, fiction and a biography from time to time.
When asked about their favorite books, they both had to think a little.
“Boy, that’s a hard one,” Pat Burkholder said. “I haven’t found a better storyteller than Jim Harrison. He gives you such a sense of adventure when writing about the outdoors, and Michigan in particular. I don’t think anyone does as good a job at writing about the emotions and conflicts between people and nature.”
“Oh, so many choices,” Valerie Burkholder said. “The one that comes to mind is ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini. It’s a sad story, but so vivid and powerful at the same time. I devoured it in three days.”
When the store opens, it will be stocked with new books of all kinds.
“We carry all genres and have a great kids’ section,” Valerie said. “We also carry regional titles (books about Michigan) and will be selling many local authors works as well, both adult and children’s.”
The kid’s section will be a very unique section of the store, with a mural painted by local artist Rebecca Haigler. Besides books, the store will also be stocked with greeting cards, coffee mugs, bookmarks, wall art and pottery pieces locally crafted by Michigan artists.
“We want to support local talent as much as we can,” Valerie Burkholder said. “The philosophy of most independent bookstores is to be part of the community and we wholeheartedly believe in that. We want to be engaged within our community and believe supporting local artists is one way to do that.”
The Rockford and West Michigan community has really embraced the couple and their new business.
“Rockford is a great community with a small town feel but close to all that Grand Rapids has to offer,” Valerie Burkholder said. “We’ve received tons of support from the community for our store and are so glad we can do this here.”
Both of the Burkholder’s graduated from Michigan State University. Valerie Burkholder spent her career in pharmaceuticals and was offered an early retirement in March, which she accepted.
Pat Burkholder retired as well; he’d been teaching middle school for 12 years after working in business for 15 years, previously. The couple, who married in 2016, love going back to their alma mater for football and basketball games.
They spend a lot of time with family, and have five kids between the two of them, and are expecting their first granddaughter in September. Valerie Burkholder said the kids are very excited about the opening of the store.
“Our oldest, David, lives in GR and has done a lot of work in the store painting, doing all the carpentry for the build out, wiring the sound system, pretty much anything we’ve asked,” she said. “Another son, Alex, assembled most of our shelves.”
The rest of the kids live out of state, including Lauren and her husband Matt, who are expecting the Burkholder’s first granddaughter.
“We can’t wait to have her in the store and share the kid’s section with her and have already started setting aside some old-school favorite books for her,” Valerie Burkholder said. “We certainly hope Epilogue Books will be a legacy for our children, our granddaughter, and future grandchildren.”
And why the name Epilogue Books?
“An epilogue is the continuation of a story, something that tells you what happens to the characters after the main story is over,” she said. “Since we retired this adventure is our epilogue.”
Epilogue Books is located at 10 East Bridge Street in Rockford.
*Photos courtesy of Epilogue Books