HILO — Seeing his inventory of books and vinyl records floating in flood waters from Hurricane Lane last year was a surreal moment for Royce Wilson.
But rather than being devastated, the owner of Still Life Books views it more now as the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another.
More than four months after the storm dumped record rainfall on East Hawaii, and flooded his basement store in downtown Hilo, Wilson is back in business, this time at a smaller storefront on higher ground.
That’s giving his loyal customer base reason to celebrate.
“This place fills a great void,” said Charles Furoy, a vinyl record collector who lives in Volcano, while visiting the store at 235 Waianuenue Ave. next to Blane’s Drive Inn on Saturday.
“When it was closed, there was no place else to go.”
Wilson prides himself on stocking the best literature and music, along with enough rarities to keep collectors coming back.
He said he lost 35 to 40 percent of his inventory when his former location on Furneaux Lane was flooded.
At 420 square feet, the new shop is less than half the size. But it allows him to be even more selective about what he displays.
“My goal is all the best of the best,” Wilson said, as he played a Marvin Gaye album on his turntable.
Furoy said he has 20,000 records in his own collection, but finds albums he’s never seen before at Wilson’s shop.
It’s a reason Wilson said he’s seen lots of happy faces since he reopened last month.
“They smile, jump up and down and dance to the music,” he said.
Wilson, 74, started selling books and records in East Hawaii about 20 years ago when he arrived from Seattle with a collection of 2,000 to 3,000 books. First, he sold out of his pickup truck at Maku‘u Farmers Market.
After growing over the years, he planned to downsize but never made that step, until the flood.
“I think I’m in a better place,” Wilson said.