Two former elementary school teachers have shared their love of books with Valley residents for more than two decades.
Debbie Manning and Jean Fennacy have persevered through challenging times and are proud that their Petunia's Place is the region's only locally owned independent bookstore.
What's the nature of your business?
We have a very wide collection of books for young people and some for adults. Our books range from a very deep collection of books for toddlers through books for young adults. We also have puppets, stuffed animals, and toys for young children.
What's the history of your business?
It began when the person who was my third-grade teacher opened the store near Fresno City College. Then she brought in a former teacher and they moved it to Bullard and West.
After eight years, they wanted to retire and approached us about buying the store. We said: "We've always wanted to buy a bookstore." It has been 25 years since we bought it.
How did you two meet?
I was the director of the reading program at Fresno Pacific University, and I needed a kindergarten teacher to speak at a conference.
That's when I invited (Debbie) to do that, and from that time on, we became friends. We both love books, and we both have a passion for connecting people with good books because we think reading is a wonderful gift.
What's so appealing about books?
You can travel to so many places; you can be in so many worlds; you can be so many things in books. You can grow with books.
Debbie: And characters change and evolve over time and you do, too. You can do and be anything you want in a book and you can try out things that you can't do in the real world, but in a book, you can do.
What are your biggest rewards?
Putting the right book in the hand of a child that helps them become a reader and love books. That's why we are here.
What are your biggest challenges?
No Child Left Behind has been a huge challenge because teachers were very restricted in what they could do in their classrooms and very restricted to what reading materials they can use. It hit us hard with a loss of almost a third of our clientele.
The second challenge is getting the word out that we're here. Fresno has lost all of its independent bookstores except us. We are the only independent, locally owned bookstore from Bakersfield to Turlock.
How does that make you feel?
It's a bit scary. It's a big responsibility. You just have to hope for the community recognizing the need for local shops.
Owners: Debbie Manning and Jean Fennacy
Location: 6027 N. Palm Ave., Fresno
Phone: (559) 438-1561
Annual sales: $325,000
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