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But Toole himself has a contradictory story. He says he’s ready to retire once Wixon can slap a big enough check on the table. But then his eyes twinkle. Was that one of his inscrutable jokes?
Wixon is pondering changes he might make to the store, possibly keeping later hours and opening a cafe in the back. Its eccentricity, though, will remain.
“I don’t want to change it too much,” he says. “I like the way it is — a suspended tidal wave of books that, at any moment, might engulf you.”
After graduating in 2000 from the College of William and Mary and kicking around for a few years doing social work, Wixon, an Arlington, Va., native, came back to Washington and found a job at Capitol Hill Books. He started picking up manual labor jobs on then-nascent Craigslist, and he eventually placed his own ads.
Now, he owns two trucks and plans to buy a third next month.
The story of a scrappy gang of overeducated guys with the dream of owning an indie used bookstore is a marketing gold mine. Imagine the characters in “High Fidelity” on an underdog mission a la the “Bad News Bears.”
Bookstore Movers’ Craigslist ads play up the pathos: “Employees of a local independent used bookstore on Capitol Hill do moves to save up to purchase it upon the owner’s retirement,” they read.
The pitch often attracts clients with big book collections; they are Hill staffers and labor activists, Republican National Committee employees and teachers.
“They’re just people who love books and like the idea of being moved by people who love books,” Wixon says.
The company’s six employees are all connected to the bookstore in some way. Either like Wixon, Beckwith and Burk, they have worked at the shop, or they know employees.
“One guy is the younger brother of a girl who works at the front desk, and another is the ex-boyfriend of another girl who works there,” he says.
Only one employee came from outside the Capitol Hill Books orbit: When the Washington City Paper named the company D.C.’s “Best Mover,” the mention prompted a call from a kindred spirit seeking work — a philosophy graduate student from Georgetown University.
Still, Wixon allows that a college degree — and the “erudition” they boast of in their ads — has limited practical benefits during a move.
“It might help us to have more interesting conversations with each other in the truck,” he says.