The best kept secret of Sugar House

Central Book Exchange is an old Sugar House landmark right around the corner from Sugar House Coffee on 11th East. Photos by Catherine Blakemore

Central Book Exchange is an old Sugar House landmark right around the corner from Sugar House Coffee on 11th East. Photos by Catherine Blakemore

Nestled next to a used furniture store and old plumbing company, the Central Book Exchange (CBE) has been an integral place for book buying, selling and trading in the Sugar House community since 1968.

Just a block away from Barnes & Noble and around the corner from Sugar House Coffee, the CBE is a storefront of culture and showcase of locally loved and gently used books.

“People are more aware now than ever about shopping local,” said Shawna Meyer, general manager of the CBE. “I think that people who want to support smaller businesses are aware of where their money is going to go—if they buy it here versus if they buy it at Barnes & Noble.”

CBE isn’t selling the high priced hardcovers of latest editions but the loved and pre-read books from the Sugar House community. From a “For Dummies” series to a beloved classic mystery to Joan Didion to children’s books, the CBE can be a haven for book-lovers.

“When I first started here, [our customer base] was mostly older people, just because I think that they had been coming here for a long time,” Meyer said. “Then, they updated Sugar House in the last year and we’ve started to get college kids and younger people are starting to hear about us.”

The CBE is one of the only used book stores in Salt Lake City that has a complete online and searchable database of its inventory. The employees will take books in, list them in the online database, clean them up and place them in the store.

The store has been getting a new style from the employees. Black chalk signs hang around and above each section of books, stacked books in the front window are arranged to be “just-so” and dangling twinkly lights are all from the creative minds of the CBE.

“I’m surprised more college students don’t come to our store because there’s so many good reads, whether you’re looking for an actual textbook, which can be hit or miss with that,” said Sally Drutman, a CBE employee and Westminster student. “I’m surprised they don’t come in to just buy regular, contemporary fiction books and classic books.”

Drutman, a junior vocal performance major from Bend, Oregon, has been working at the CBE for about three months.

“The front store where people see and shop is not even half of our inventory,” Drutman said. “We have a back room and a warehouse across the parking lot that is giant. If a book that someone is looking for isn’t in our store, we have to sometimes go to the back room or search the warehouse for it.”

While the CBE is labeled as a book exchange, customers don’t need to bring in books in order to buy other ones. Regular customers who bring in books buy and trade based on a point system that is then converted into a dollar amount.

“A lot of people will just stumble in, and they’ll say ‘Ah, I didn’t even know this existed!’” Drutman said.

A classic banner hangs in the center of the CBE over the stacks and shelves of new and gently used books. The space next to the counter becomes home for boxes of books that locals bring in to the store.

A classic banner hangs in the center of the CBE over the stacks and shelves of new and gently used books. The space next to the counter becomes home for boxes of books that locals bring in to the store.