JMVintage is owned by mother and son, June and Mark Gaulding, and has been in existence since 2001. We are a specialized bookseller with unique niches and we sell solely online (although we do have occasional visits to our studio). Our main specialty is books, magazines and ephemera related to the Duke & Duchess of Windsor and other royalty.
We are located in Palm Desert, California, one of the many cities that make up the greater Palm Springs area.
While we’ve had our business for seven years, the story of how we became booksellers is one that started many years ago.
I have always loved books since early childhood. I was addicted to the Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie mysteries, early on. I am a voracious reader. So, a bookstore seemed to be a natural career path for me, even though I didn’t actually realize this until the middle chapter of life. I discovered antiquarian and used bookstores in my early twenties, about the same time I “discovered” the Duke & Duchess of Windsor. In fact, it was this “royal” discovery which started me on a twenty-year mission to acquire every book ever written by or about the Windsors. In 1987, a book was published that presented the correspondence of the Windsors up to and through the abdication and their subsequent marriage. I literally was astounded at the story…one I had never heard about. This book is called, Wallis and Edward: Letters, 1931-1937; The Intimate Correspondence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, edited by Michael Bloch.
In the 4/2008 issue of Allure Magazine, Madonna is quoted: “I’m reading every book ever written about the Duke & Duchess of Windsor.” Which is exactly the sentiment I had over twenty years ago when I read the couple’s letters in Bloch’s book. My next step was to visit Acres of Books, a huge used bookstore in Long Beach, where I lived at the time. This introduced me to another love affair—with used bookstores. The moment I stepped inside I felt I’d finally found a place that I belonged. I relished hunting through piles and piles of books to find some obscure treasure, covered in dust. Using bibliographies from the various out-of-print works I was able to find, I began to compile a list of books and other material on the couple. This was the beginning of my Windsor collection. I began to explore used bookstores throughout Southern California, looking for either titles on my list or an even better reward—a title I hadn’t even known about.
So, that one book literally launched several great passions in my life: book collecting, studying the lives of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor, and shopping at used bookstores. This was before the internet, and at the time I traveled a great deal in my job and I would always immediately grab the yellow pages as I arrived in a hotel to find used bookstores I could explore and squeeze into the few spare moments I wasn’t working. Every vacation usually incorporated a portion of time exploring the out-of-print bookstores in the area.
A decade later, my “hobby” and collection had grown to include 200 books. In 1997 another significant and serendipitous event occurred: the Sotheby’s auction of the Windsors’ personal property became the media event of the year, reacquainting the mainstream public with their epic story. The local paper, The Desert Sun, did a profile on my collection as a “local interest” story to accompany all of the Windsor auction news.
The article ended: “Later this month, on vacation, Gaulding will travel to Montreal to comb more old bookstores. For this Windsorphile, the continuing mission carries both a sense of love and loss. ‘It’s become kind of sad,’ he said. ‘Neither person (the Windsors) seemed to find a raison d’etre. But I keep searching. I never really want to find that last book.”
As a result of that article I received a number of inquiries from people in the Palm Springs area. One such acquaintance introduced me to AbeBooks and the shopping opportunities on the internet. This transformed my collection and buying in a very significant way. My Windsor collection became more than just books. I was buying magazines, photos, and ephemera. This was probably the most significant evolutionary step on the road to bookseller as it literally introduced me to the internet book world and I discovered there were other Windsor aficionados all over the globe.
In the late ’90s I began to purchase multiple copies of Windsor-related books and other items. I suppose I had some secret hope that someday I could have my own bookstore and could sell these copies.
JMVintage began in 2001 with my extra copies of Duke & Duchess of Windsor-related books. My mother, June, who was approaching retirement from the travel agency industry at 65, was considering options for making additional money once she was no longer employed. I suggested that she could sell my extra Windsor books and magazines. We formed a partnership and started selling on AbeBooks with just a few books.
In 2002 we both attended David Gregor’s seminars (www.gregorbooks.com) on book selling and book collecting. These classes were such an important education on the industry and we both took it very seriously. I remember distinctly Mr. Gregor saying, “If you’re not buying, you’re not selling,” which essentially became my mantra, much to my partner, June’s, chagrin.
At the seminar we learned about Amazon Marketplace and then listed our inventory there. Not long after we discovered Bibliopolis, which allowed us to create our own website, www.jmvintage.com.
Gregor also was instrumental in helping us understand about specialization of inventory, which we had already discovered, quite by accident, by the very nature of the unique subject matter we were selling. This early specialization advice has been crucial in growing the business since 2002. Our niche market illustrates I think, most effectively, the concept of The Long Tail, written by Chris Anderson and published in 2006. The long tail is well illustrated in my own book collecting and subsequent bookselling experience. The internet made available the most amazing breadth and depth of material, which before 1997, I had known nothing about.
The Windsors are about as specialized as you can get. But it seems that from this subject several other specialties have naturally evolved. We began to specialize in Cecil Beaton and Elsa Maxwell, and then it broadened to encompass books on art, architecture, interior design, biographies and autobiographies of twentieth-century figures, and royalty in general. Specialties tend to develop periodically based upon my own reading obsessions. One that has stuck over the years is courtesans.
On the flight back from Gregor’s seminar in 2002, June decided that she wanted to specialize using her own interest in cookbooks. It is interesting how much those seminars, those two brief days, have guided us throughout the years since.
Five years ago, when I turned 40, I decided that I was going to make the bookselling business my full-time profession. While I was in no position to leave my almost twenty year career in healthcare finance, I set a goal that within two years the business would have grown so that I could begin to transition out of my regular job. But as things usually happen the two years quickly passed and I was swept up in promotions and ended up in a position that was quite full time. June has diligently nurtured our book business throughout the last seven years and I participated every other waking hour not spent at my job at the hospital.
When I had my 45th birthday, I was horrified to think that my hopes would yet again not be accomplished when I reached the 50-year milestone. I resolved to not repeat regrets five years from now and left my job with the hospital to pursue our bookstore full-time. That was in September, 2007.
Our inventory currently includes almost 5,000 books and magazines. Our main goal since September has been to grow the business to include Windsor items besides books and magazines. We’ve developed a product line of gifts, original art, and objet d’art/décor items with a Windsor theme. We also worked with Luke Lozier and the great folks at Bibliopolis to upgrade our website into a cleaner more polished look.
It has been an interesting learning experience for us both in the seven years since we started our bookselling business. About 35-40% of our sales are through our website, but with the cyclical ups and downs of the industry and other selling sites like AbeBooks, it seems that we are constantly challenged to redefine.
JMVintage takes up a large room, a garage, and several closets in my home. We’ve literally run out of space, unless I move out of my home and rent an apartment and commit my home strictly to commerce. My original dream was to have my own bookstore and I’ve often wondered if we could find a successful way to back our way into a bookstore…to reverse engineer it, so to speak, since many independent and brick and mortar used bookstores have closed their doors and gone online only. At some point in the near future we will have to find some sort of additional space, whether it is a shop or rooms in an industrial park.
Without the initial training at the Gregor seminars we probably would not have been able to grow the business over the years. I also have wanted for some time now to attend the Colorado Antiquarian bookselling workshop. I have a business background which lends itself to the business but ultimately I would love the opportunity to become more educated on this noble profession.
We also manage the Duke & Duchess of Windsor Society (www.ddows.org) and publish a quarterly journal for the Society, which is another aspect that feeds traffic to our website. Understanding the internet and its complexities is a constant challenge. Learning how to enhance your google rankings and how to increase traffic is one of life’s great mysteries and a cause of heartburn for us (along with the price of a gallon of gas)!
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of JMVintage is the fact that it now includes three generations. My 93-year-old grandmother, Faye, has for several years been an integral part of the business. She loves working on the computer. The only problem since I’ve been here full-time is that we literally run into each other trying to work in our studio here in my home.
Some day we hope to have our own brick and mortar shop which is not an extension of my house. Until that time please, visit our store online at www.jmvintage.com. We would love to hear from fellow members of IOBA.
And, by the way, I still haven’t found that last book! I suspect that other IOBA members will understand.
June and Mark Gaulding operate JMVintage out of Palm Desert, CA and can be contacted at http://www.jmvintage.com.