Faces of the Boom: Oil boom boosts the business of books

Chuck Wilder, pictured Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, is owner of Books on Broadway in Williston, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Independent bookstore owner Chuck Wilder noticed a change in business four years ago when guys in Halliburton coveralls started coming into his shop.

Books on Broadway started getting new customers, including a more educated set of oilfield workers than previous oil booms had brought to Williston.

“These guys, they all have engineering degrees and they’re readers,” Wilder said.

The oil boom has been good for business in the downtown shop. Holiday sales are up this year, and the store can’t keep its top seller, “The Frackers” by Gregory Zuckerman, in stock.

Books on Broadway expanded its science fiction and fantasy section in response to the new male customers, and more young women in Williston prompted a resurgence in book clubs. Children’s books and toys fill a large section of the store to meet the demand from more young families having babies in Williston.

“This boom is really fun, riding it out,” Wilder said.

Wilder’s wife, Robin, opened the store in 1993 because she couldn’t find a job in Williston and she always wanted to open a bookstore. She died of cancer in 2000, and Wilder has been running the shop since 1999.

Wilder, a former Williams County state’s attorney, also fills in as an alternate municipal judge in Williston.

The 59-year-old’s roots in Williston go way back. His parents grew up in Williston, and his grandmothers were in Williston before the railroad came through in 1887.

“I’m a local,” Wilder said. “We’re kind of a minority.”

Wilder likes the changes the oil boom has brought to his hometown, particularly efforts underway to enhance the downtown area.

A $16 million, multi-story apartment and retail building is expected to be under construction next year on Main Street.

“I think that’s going to be a real game-changer for downtown,” he said.

Williston also is doing a streetscape project downtown to spruce up streets, awnings, street lights and other aesthetics. City leaders are working with consultants to develop a downtown plan to keep the area prominent as Williston sees commercial growth in other areas of town.

“In 2014, there are going to be some exciting things happening downtown,” Wilder said. “I think this boom has really jumpstarted a lot of things.”

4 thoughts on “Faces of the Boom: Oil boom boosts the business of books

  1. Mr. Wilder is one of the most honerable men ever to be a member of the North Dakota Bar. Stop by and chat with Chuck and find out what “North Dakota Nice” is all about.

  2. Chuck Wilder is an amazing man! He is a wealth of knowledge and is passionate about his city and its history. If you want to know the real history of Williston, he’s your man! Coffee at his shop is also delicious, and sharing a conversation with him over a cup is priceless.

  3. I so enjoy stopping in the store to visit with Chuck every time I come home to visit my family. He is very knowledgeable about every kind of book and which ones are the most recent. I love buying gift certificates for my nieces and nephews for their birthdays and Christmas. I live in the Twin Cities and feel his store compares to any of the big stores in the area. Thanks Chuck.

  4. We moved from Williston in 2010, but always loved Books on Broadway and the Wilders! The bar in the coffee shop actually came from Fortuna, ND, near where Bruce grew up.
    The store has always been my “go to” option for gifts for friends, grandchildren, or myself! Chuck is a treasure to the store and to Williston. Luckily we moved to another “small town” where business owners are also friendly and knowledgeable. Don’t change, Chuck – you are amazing!

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