MILWAUKEE — There aren’t as many independent used bookstores as there used to be, but some have survived and are seeing good business.

Keith Pajot is the owner of Downtown Books in Milwaukee. He’s been in the books business for three decades.

He decides what to buy for his store, depending on what his customers are going through or asking for.

(Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

“Through the experience I’ve had through the 30 years of selling, I know what kind of books people buy and what they’re not interested in anymore, and so we pay real close attention to that,” said Keith Pajot.

Keith Pajot has about 200,000 books on the shelves at his store, and around a million more in storage.

He said he loves the treasure hunt, sometimes literally, when he buys books for his store.

“I once found a book signed by Picasso at an estate sale. I still have a book signed by Harry Houdini,” he said.

(Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

Keith Pajot said he finds many of the books he sells at estate sales, thrift markets and even from people who stop by his store.

His daughter, Rebecca Pajot, manages his store. She said business went up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People got sick of watching TV, so they started reading more — and I think it picked up, you know, they were bored at home,” said Rebecca Pajot.

(Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)

Her father is thrilled that she will continue his legacy when he decides to retire.

“Hopefully, I can work less and read more books that I missed out on because I was working in a bookstore. So, I think we are going to survive, and I think we are going to continue to build our customer base and I’m real optimistic about our future,” said Keith Pajot.  

Keith Pajot said Downtown Books has a presence both on eBay and on Amazon. Besides books, he sells art, music albums and even cassette tapes.

(Spectrum News 1/Wendy Strong)