Former teacher Paul Pugh’s Olympia Books is celebrating its 25th anniversary. He hasn’t written any books, but the Beckwith Theatre co-founder completed four plays, including one about the House of David. Unfinished plays he combined into “Dead Man Talking” for a Beckwith fundraiser after his passing — his own moment of Zen. He has four children, Stephanie, John, Sean and Colin, and 11 grandchildren. He took inspiration for his “last act” from the quote, “Life is one long rehearsal for a show we will never perform.”

Archived Story

Olympia Books 25 years old

Published 9:23pm Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Name of business: Olympia Books


Name of owner: Paul Pugh


Address of business: 208 S. Front St.


Telephone number: (269) 783-6031


Hours: Open most days about 10 or 11, sometimes as early as 8 but some days as late as 12 or 1. I close around 4 or 5, occasionally at 2:30 or 3. There are some days I’m not here at all, but lately I’ve been here all the time except when I’m someplace else, but I should be here then, too. It’s best to give me a call.


Date business opened: 1987


What type of business do you operate — what you sell, services provided? I got tired of teaching. This looked like a fun thing to do. I do most business on the internet, but I have to store them somewhere, so why not? Besides, a lot of good things I buy come in the front door. Mine and Casperson in Niles are about the only ones left in southwest Michigan. Every used book seller likes to think of himself as a preserver of culture. Ninety percent of all titles available are used. Only 10 percent are new. Another bookseller saying is, ‘Any book is a new book if you haven’t read it.’ People like to discover someone they haven’t read, like a mystery writer from the ’20s.


Where are you from? Athens, Ohio. I had a place in South Bend for a while, so I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years. I gradually got into used books, then dropped new books altogether.


What sets your business apart from similar ventures? I still order new books for people who can buy at the same price as Barnes and Noble. It takes about a week. I just went to a book sale in Lawrence and got a $70 book for 50 cents.


Why did you choose to open in Dowagiac? I moved up here when I married Karen.


Will you ever write a book of your own (Ralph Casperson’s memoir is in a cart in the aisle)? No, it’s too much like work. I just read Kurt Vonnegut’s last book (a photo of Pugh with Dogwood Fine Arts Festival’s first visiting author hangs in the shop) and I’m halfway through a biography of him. I always admired his fearlessness in saying what he had to say. If I happen to die — I don’t think I will because an exception could be made in my case — I put together a presentation from plays I started and didn’t finish (including the sequel to “Just Like a Movie” and one about Henry Miller and Anais Nin). Beckwith can put it on after I come back from my post-graduate work at U of M (he’s donating his body to medical science).


Who are your customers? I get to know a lot of tourists. Not many local people at all.


Plans for Olympia’s future? I can’t do this forever, so I’m thinking of selling it. There’s an apartment upstairs.

By using this website’s user-contribution features, including comments, photo galleries, or any other feature, you agree to abide by the terms of use. Please read this agreement in its entirety because it contains useful information that will help you better understand the rules and general "good manners" that are expected when contributing content to this website.

  • Kat Race

    I have been lucky enough to buy some books from him, and he gave a train postcard to my son! I love it in there and it smells amazing!! I will go again, when I catch him between 10 or 11 or as early as 8! :)

Editor's Picks