New owner to keep regional book store going

Jerry Brace, left, recently sold Brace Books and More in Ponca City to Tara Smith, right. The bookstore, which offers other sale items and hosts events, has survived chain books stores and online book sales.

Courtesy photo

PONCA CITY, Okla — For about 35 years, Jerry Brace and his wife, Jean, worked hard to serve their customers at Brace Books and More.

Recently, Jerry announced a new owner of the store, Tara Smith, who intends to provide customers with the same service that has continued to be a trademark of the store.

Effective Jan. 1, Smith purchased Brace Books and More from Jerry. He has agreed to assist as an employee and a consultant for at least one year.

In addition to books, the store offers toys, games, cards, a coffee bar, kitchen items, garden and pet supplies and much more.

Located at 2205 N. 14th St., the independent bookstore survives the competition from huge bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and internet buying.

The staff at Brace books will place special orders if particular books are out of stock in the store.

"Bookstores themselves struggle as they don't have other products to sell," Jerry Brace said. "The first thing we brought in was toys. We thought it was a good fit for the store. We might not have deep quantities of books like in Tulsa or Wichita, but we do carry a number of books by authors who write about local subjects. And customers can always special order books."

Jerry said that under Smith's leadership, along with some fresh ideas, the store's name and general operation will remain the same.

"We always like it when customers come in," he added. "It is always a pleasure to hear nice words about the store and its staff from customers who return to shop year after year. 

“The community can look forward to new ideas and enthusiasm for the bookstore under the leadership of Tara Smith."

Brace books has quite a history. In 1983, the store was opened by Jean and continued under her leadership until her death in July 2015. Jerry said that Madge Vorheis, who had closed her bookstore in downtown Ponca City, helped Jean in the details of opening a new bookstore. Jerry joined her in the store after leaving Conoco, Inc., in 1986.

The original, 1,200-square-feet store was opened in Ponca Plaza. After outgrowing that location, the business moved to a larger location, also in Ponca Plaza. 

In 1987, the store was moved to its current location on North 14th St. Jerry said that the expansion allowed for a coffee bar and non-book items in the inventory.

"Ponca City has been fortunate to have an independent bookstore serving the needs of the community,” he said. “Very few cities in Oklahoma have a full service bookstore.”

Over the years, Brace Books and More has hosted many well-known national authors but also local area authors who have written books of regional interest.

Jerry added that "fads for us are fun."

He is referring to the book/reading time activities in which parents bring their children. There also have been costume parties and drawings for prizes, adult coloring book classes and other events.

Jerry credits Jean for her "forward thinking" when she added the "and More" to the store name.

"Under her direction, other products were added for sale, such as toys, candles, jewelry and other gift items," he said.

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