Jay and Samantha LaFountain purchased the bookstore three years ago and changed the name from The Swallows Nest, named after the previous owners, to Book Haven.
“I saw a Facebook post that the original owners were looking for a buyer, and I would have hated to see it close,” Samantha said. “Jay suggested we buy it, and I didn’t think he was serious at first. But we were at this weird crossroads where we were not really sure what our next move was.”
According to the LaFountains, the previous owners were very serious about keeping the integrity of the store they had built up over the years. The previous owners were also determined to ensure the store remained a haven for the community in town. Not long after the interview, Jay and Samantha were the owners of the store.
“We saw the ad on Memorial Day weekend and we owned the store by the end of June,” Samantha said.
Book Haven carries everything from classics to westerns and Christian history to children’s fiction. They carry a wide variety of puzzles, games, and stationery as well. The store offers a student discount to high school and college students alike. Additionally, they buy used books from students and from Mossey Library.
Prior to their purchase of Book Haven, Samantha was a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled their six children. Jay worked full time as an accountant, but said he had been interested in running his own business.
“I have always been fascinated with business,” Jay said. “I was all in for any kind of retail establishment, or any kind of business really. The fact that it’s books just makes it better.”
The bookstore also gave Jay the opportunity to grow closer to his family.
“I used to have an hour and a half commute, eight hours of work, and an hour and a half drive back home. Now I get so much more family time,” Jay said. “Some days Samantha works and I get to stay home and hang out with the kids. That has been a huge blessing for me.”
Jay has also found the time to pursue interests such as weekend pickleball tournaments and volunteer work at Crossroads Farm youth ministry.
All eight members of the LaFountain family were avid readers even before owning the bookstore.
“I grew up reading Nancy Drew under my bed covers with a flashlight when I was young,” Samantha said.
Becoming the owners of Book Haven has been a wonderful opportunity for the LaFountain family, Samantha said.
“I love that our kids get to be involved. They get to learn all sorts of valuable things and it really fits well into our homeschooling lifestyle,” Samantha said. “Especially for my older kids, they’re learning business skills here. My second oldest can literally run the whole store. They get to naturally be a part of the community just by coming to work with us and when they do, they get to meet all sorts of different people from all different age groups and walks of life and I think that’s really good for them.”
In the early days of ownership, Jay and Samantha worked long hours at the store, which required them to turn it into something of a second home for their children. One can find comfortable seating and pots of fresh coffee scattered throughout the store.
“The journey is ever evolving,” Samantha said. “I remember the first year or so feeling surreal everytime I came to work.”
Initially, Samantha mainly ran the store while Jay stayed home with the LaFountain children.
“That’s one of the wonderful things about owning and running a business together,” Samantha said. “I know a lot of people and families where a spouse has a business but it’s not a family business they run together. One of the biggest blessings for us is the ability and flexibility to take a break in one realm or another and kind of pick up the slack for each other. We just go with where we’re at in our season of life.”
This flexibility has helped Samantha as a mother, she said.
“I got a break from my children for the first time in many years,” Samantha said with a laugh. “I was really at a breaking point with my mental health and I needed some reinforcement. Getting more time to be me and not just mom all the time has really helped a lot. It has made it so this year I have been able to be home with the kids more and it’s not so taxing because it’s a choice I get to make.”
Like the rest of the world, Book Haven was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. They were forced to shut down for about two months, when they lost a significant amount of business.
“We stayed open as best we could with delivery services and curbside pickup,” Jay said. “It wasn’t paying the bills, but it wasn’t about money at that point. It was about a bunch of customers stuck at home who needed books. When we opened back up, there was a huge outpouring of people coming in.”
After Book Haven’s reopening, the store saw better sales than it had before the pandemic.
“It really reminded people how important it is to support their small local businesses which was really needed I think,” Samantha said. “We were doing fine before COVID, but it actually increased business for us.”
Roxanne Kaufman, an art professor at Hillsdale, is a longtime friend of the LaFountain family and a regular at Book Haven.
Kaufman shares the LaFountain’s passion for books, and she has even done events at Book Haven following the release of her two children’s books, entitled “Hooves” and “Nell the Nest Cow.”
“It’s not just a bookstore, it really is a unique place,” Kaufman said. “They encourage community there.”
Kaufman’s friendship with the LaFountain family began with shared testimonies of faith, she said.
“We started talking about church and the different ways God has touched our lives and a friendship grew.”