This mobile bookstore pops up around Utah County

Utah has its share of independent bookstores, but the Utah County sisters behind The BookBox Utah take the idea of independence to another level — putting their shop on wheels.

Randi Rose, who lives in Lehi, said she and her sister, Kayleigh Dixon in Saratoga Springs, got the idea for their mobile bookstore during a family barbecue last Pioneer Day, July 24.

“I had been thinking about putting some bookshelves in my basement, and when I was drawing it out, I was, like, ‘I could do this in a trailer,’” Rose said. “So I took it to [Kayleigh], because she’s always wanted to own a bookshop. And I just said, ‘What if we created a mobile bookshop? Like, why not? We’re moms. We have kind of flexible schedules.’”

The next day, they went out and bought a trailer to carry their dream project. They spent the summer flipping it, with help from their husbands and their kids.

The result is a multi-colored trailer that the sisters have parked this winter along a path between stores at the Outlets at Traverse Mountain in Lehi.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Book Box, a mobile bookshop, at Traverse Mountain Outlets in Lehi on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

The trailer, Dixon said, is “our favorite place to be, and people feel that when they come in.”

The enclosed trailer has shelves from floor to ceiling, full of books. There are some aesthetic touches: At the entrance, at the trailer’s back end, one of the doors is lined in greenery with a neon sign that reads “I have no shelf control.”

The greenery and sign, and the slat walls behind the tiny checkout stand, “was all from our imaginations. Drawing and measuring and buying supplies at Home Depot,” Rose said. “We just made it something we would want to shop at.” (Their husbands, she said, helped attach some of the shelves.)

Along with books, The BookBox sells bookmarks and tote bags. When the store is open, they pull out a cart of used books, and a mini table for children, with a bucket of Legos to keep the kids occupied while their parents shop — something the sisters understand, since they have seven kids between them.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Book Box, a mobile bookshop, at Traverse Mountain Outlets in Lehi on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

“When we created the atmosphere of the Bookbox, we wanted to feel like we’re your best friends,” Rose said. There’s not a lot of room to wander, Dixon noted, so customers and employees have to interact: To ask for recommendations, or chat about books they’ve all read. Many of the books have little bookmark tags, noting that a certain title was an employee’s five-star read.

Because of the limited space, Dixon said, many of their books are titles featured on BookTok – the bookish side of TikTok – where readers recommend books and share thoughts on them.

Both sisters say they enjoy thrillers, romance and fantasy. Their February bestseller was Lauren Roberts’ young-adult fantasy “Powerless.” Other popular titles on the shelves include works by such authors as Rebecca Yarros, Sarah J. Maas, Rachel Gillig and Hannah Grace.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Book Box, a mobile bookshop, at Traverse Mountain Outlets in Lehi on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

“A lot of it is books we’ve read, want to read, or that our employees have read or want to read,” Rose said, adding that they also take customer requests into consideration.

The sisters said their top-selling item, across the board, is their selection of “blind date books,” books wrapped in brown kraft paper, with tags that give clues to what’s inside: Genre, tropes, or whether it’s been chosen by a popular book club (such as Reese Witherspoon’s) or is scoring well on a reading platform like Goodreads.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Book Box, a mobile bookshop, at Traverse Mountain Outlets in Lehi on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024.

The response has been positive, the sisters said — and the audience, from college students to moms, in some ways reflects Rose and Dixon.

“These are the people that have had babies and are raising their kids, but now we’re finding time to do what they love, which is a lot of times …” Rose said.

“They read,” Dixon said, finishing her sister’s sentence.

Rose and Dixon had their grand opening for The BookBox on Labor Day weekend. “When we first opened, we were just popping up, doing markets and parking lots like Lowe’s and Smith’s, ” Dixon said. They’ve also parked at conferences.

They returned to Traverse Mountain for the winter. It was a perfect location, they said, because of the overhead cover in case of rain and snow. They plan to stay at Traverse Mountain until May, when their lease ends, and get back into more pop-up appearances.

They advise fans to keep an eye on the store’s social media to know where they will show up. Rose said they plan to “pop up all over Utah County this summer,” though they also hope to go around the state, from Logan to St. George.

“The ultimate goal is to have a storefront,” Rose said. “We would love to own an indie bookshop together.”

One thing’s for sure, Rose said: “The trailer will always be there.”

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