"I really don’t mind the long hours," said Moody, who spends between 80 and 100 hours per week selling books in his store at the Fort Henry Mall and online, "but I’m over 60 years old now, and I don’t quite have the energy that I did in my 20s."
Moody said that, since 1967 when he began selling books and Bibles door-to-door, he’s sold well over a million books through a variety of methods.
He opened his first retail bookstore in the Hillcrest section of Kingsport in 1974 and has been happily helping his customers find the books they need ever since. He closed for a few months in 2010 to finish a Ph.D. and reopened in the Fort Henry Mall.
Moody has also been involved in a variety of community projects, organizations and programs, and served on the Kingsport Board of Education. He has completed two master's degrees and is nearing completion of his second Ph.D.; the first is in organizational leadership and the second in cultural anthropology.
"For professional booksellers, research represents a key part of life and work, so academia is a natural interest for book people," he explained. "My original career path [in the 1970s] was a professorship in educational leadership, but that was diverted by my deeper interest and involvement in the book business."
In 2008 - at age 57 - he returned to academia to begin Ph.D. studies - a dream he’d nurtured for more than 30 years. He now serves as an adjunct professor of leadership studies for Oxford Graduate School. After he completes his second Ph.D., he hopes to reduce his daily workload and edit some of his writings for publication.
Bookstores are coming back into fashion, he said, and he’d welcome the idea of selling the business to the right person - that is, someone who’s always wanted to own a bookstore and has the cash to make it happen.
He says local bookstores are regaining popularity because consumers are starting to figure out that big box bookstores and big online booksellers are not all they’re cracked up to be.
As big bookstore prices creep up and the online business model replaces low-price competition with high-priced convenience, he said customers realize they can get better service - and often better prices - from their hometown bookstores, which resemble the bookstores of the early 1970s with a mix of new and used.
"I think there’s something that people still want about having that tangible page in your hand," said customer Chyrel Wright, as she browsed I Love Books. "It won’t break if you throw it in the back seat, and you can still find it on your bookshelf years later - and it’s like a surprise."
Behind the wall of his mall bookstore, Moody has more than 100,000 volumes in a warehouse and an active Internet business. He’s lived his dream for the last 45 years and, if you’ve always wanted to be in the book business, he might make you an offer you can’t refuse. But remember - you MUST love books!