When owner Margaret Taylor opened the doors to the Book Corner on November 15, 2016, she knew something was amiss. There was a haze in the air though she couldn’t smell anything. But her assistant manager, Patty Wong, says, “I could smell it immediately. There had been a fire.”

The night before, an electrical fire had ignited a small rack of postcards. “The fire itself was very contained,” Taylor says. “Books and magazines are hard to burn because they’re so dense.” But there was a lot of smoke, and an oily residue was pushed through the ventilation system and into every corner of the building.

Located at 100 N. Walnut, the Book Corner has been a downtown staple for more than 50 years. Taylor, 72, admits she has spent a good part of the last 20 years considering how she will eventually close the store, but when the fire happened, she didn’t take the bait. “I asked her that morning if this was the time to retire,” Wong says. “She didn’t think about it for more than a minute. Then we got to work.”

That work took only a month. While magazines, greeting cards, and plush toys were a total loss, more than 22,000 books (a total of 443 boxes) were shipped to Indianapolis to be cleaned, deodorized, and stored. The floor was replaced and the walls were painted.

On December 15, the first 223 boxes of cleaned books had been returned and orders were piling up. “The goal was to open the front just so people could get their special orders,” Taylor says. “But when we opened the doors, people started coming in and buying books—out of boxes and off the shelves.” She ended up keeping the shop open throughout the holiday season. Her customers really came through for the store.

“We had fantastic sales,” she says of the holidays. And she says another good thing came out of the fire.

“We get to talk to people about how they missed us,” she says. “I keep wondering how I can thank our customers, but I hope I’m thanking them by still being here.”