Three times a week, Winning Coffee Co. offers more than food and coffee — it’s got something for the mind, too.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the coffeehouse doubles as a used bookstore.
The bookstore, Bradley’s Books, has been operating out of Winning for four and a half years, but owner Bradley Bumgarner-Kirby has been selling books in the UNM area since the mid-70s. In fact, he started selling books on campus.
“They used to allow outside vendors over on the north side of the SUB, and we could drive our car up and drop the books off and then go park our car, you know, 20 feet from the north SUB doors,” he said.
Bumgarner-Kirby, a UNM graduate, said his degree didn’t lead to his career choice.
Bradley Bumgarner-Kirby’s looks over his laptop at his bookstore. He said his favorite author is John Irving, and he recommends Irving’s _A Prayer for Owen Meany_ to customers.
“I graduated with a B.S. in psychology, and BS was the appropriate term,” he said.
After a couple years, he stopped selling books on campus and opened Bird Song Used Books in a building at Girard Boulevard and Central Avenue that used to house an “alternative community center,” which was the home of the original La Montañita Co-op and an astrologer, as well as several other businesses.
“It was an accident,” he said. “I was selling books out on the (SUB) mall for a couple years, and I had accumulated really nice books, buying them used, secondhand stores, thrift stores, flea market. I went into the co-op one day, and they had a ‘for lease’ sign for $30, utilities included … It was only a 100 square feet. It was a 10-by-10 room. So we fit the 3,000 books from my garage into there.”
Bumgarner-Kirby had never planned to open a bookstore, and he said the decision to rent the space was made spur of the moment.
“It was just kind of a whim,” he said. “It seemed like it would be easier than fighting the weather and the elements outside, to have a stable shop. I never thought of it until I saw that sign.”
The bookstore he opened, Bird Song Used Books, moved into progressively larger spaces within the community center until Bumgarner-Kirby decided to rent a store on Harvard Drive. At first, the building, a converted house, was occupied by both Bird Song and a bike shop, but Bumgarner-Kirby rented the other half of the space and had the building to himself after the bike shop moved out.
He operated Bird Song on Harvard Drive for 15 years, until an accident forced him to sell the business.
“In the mid-90s we had a bad fire,” he said. “We lost 70,000 books. It was the morning of the summer solstice in ’97. We decided not to reopen.”
The building that housed Bird Song is now occupied by the All is One tattoo shop. The Bird Song name, as well as the books that were not destroyed in the fire, were bought by a former Bird Song employee, who now operates the store on Central Avenue, just west of University Boulevard.
“We would take a percentage of sales for a couple years, if he wanted the name, since we were well-established in the neighborhood,” Bumgarner-Kirby said. “It was funny actually. I gave him 24 hours to think about it, and he called me back about 20 minutes later and said, ‘I talked it over with my wife, and we decided to go for it.’”
After the fire, Bumgarner-Kirby sold books outside of the SUB again, until the mall was closed when the SUB was renovated.
“They told us after the SUB was renovated, we could come back out there and sell, and then 14 months later, they called all of us up and said, ‘Sorry, we’re not going to allow outside vending anymore,’” he said.
He took a break from bookselling for three years, until he was drawn back into the business by an offer from the Winning Coffee Co.
“The owners here knew me,” he said. “… And they said, ‘Why don’t you come sell three days a week at our coffee shop?’ And I said, ‘Sure, which days?’”
In the time since he opened the store at Winning, Bumgarner-Kirby has made it his business to know what college students want to buy. He said Charles Bukowski has been his top-seller since opening Bradley’s Books, but he also has an extensive Beat Generation section and a lot of science fiction and poetry.
UNM student Jordan Davis Whelchel said that Bradley’s Books is a good choice for college students looking for reading material because the books offered match students’ tastes.
“There are definitely areas that he specializes in, like classic modern fiction, Beat literature, spiritualism and new-age stuff and philosophy and psychoanalysis,” he said. “So, if one’s interests don’t fall in any of those categories, they might not find much advantage in it. But for the reading University public, I think he’s mostly got his thumb on their interests.”
Winning employee Harley Kirschner said Bradley’s Books has a lot of advantages over bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble Booksellers.
“I appreciate that it’s local,” he said. “I appreciate that it’s green, and I appreciate that Bradley knows me, and he knows his repeat customers as well as the staff here and what we are looking for. He gives us a good discount here, and, you know, he knows our names.”
11 Harvard Dr. S.E.
(Inside Winning Coffee Co.)
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.