When the Tazewell Animal Improvement of Life Society (TAiLS) was established in 2017, one of the nonprofit group’s first priorities was to find a brick-and-mortar location to display some of Tazewell County Animal Control’s (TCAC) adoptable cats.

Earlier this year, the organization found its facility when Robin Selman, the owner of Bookworm Books at 3265 Court St., Pekin, decided to sell the store.

“It was a perfect opportunity,” said TAiLS President Shannon Seiss. “Everything fell into place when we met her, because we were next door at Amanda’s Closet. We had some of our items over there. We met Robin through that, and then it just came down to ‘Hey, I’m ready to sell and get out.’”

The new store, TAiLS of a Bookworm, opened May 11. In addition to selling used books, the shop now carries pet treats and toys and the Lupine line of collars and leashes. Customers can also look at and interact with adoptable cats as they browse through the store’s selection. TAiLS Vice President Theresa Rush sells a line of balms and lotions at the store, and other vendors sell products like candles, bows and jewelry.

“I think it’s absolutely brilliant,” said TAiLS volunteer Kindred Ahrens. “I love books, and I love cats. Combining two things that a lot of people enjoy, which is reading and pets, and having both in one place is amazing all around.”

Seiss added that she never thought TAiLS would be able to afford the rent at a Court Street address. She expects TAiLS of a Bookworm’s location in a high-traffic area to help sales and pet adoptions.

TAiLS of a Bookworm is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit the store’s Facebook page or call 309-353-7549. 

“The fact that we were able to get on Court Street with a rent we could afford was a huge surprise to us,” she added. “We’re thrilled to be right here. Everybody passes it. You’re going to use Court Street to go through Pekin.”

TAiLS of a Bookworm is staffed entirely by TAiLS volunteers. Seiss believes  the determination of those volunteers, along with a friendly atmosphere, are the key reasons the store will succeed.

“The one thing about TAiLS is its members are determined, and we work very, very hard,” she said. “Our slogan is ‘Working our TAiLS off to save theirs,’ and we mean it. We all work hard. The previous owner had a very steady number of customers. Our goal is to keep those customers and just keep adding on to them and make it an even better experience than it was before. We will always have snacks and coffee, and all of that is free. If you want to leave a donation, we appreciate it. But we’re trying to make this very homey. We want you to come in, grab a book, sit down and watch the cats play, enjoy yourself here and just feel comfortable being here. It’s very important to us that we have stuff available for people to feel welcome.”

TAiLS also donates used books and video and audio tapes to local Goodwill stores or other organizations that want them and have space for them. The shop donated 20 boxes of used books to the Goodwill store in Pekin during the store’s first week of operation, said Seiss. Another 10 boxes of books went to Goodwill stores in East Peoria, Washington and Peoria.

“None of these books are going to be tossed into a dumpster,” she added. “We’re going to make sure that we donate them on.”

All proceeds from TAiLS of a Bookworm will be used to help TCAC. Past donations from TAiLS have helped TCAC fund heart worm testing for dogs and feline leukemia and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) testing for cats. TAiLS donations have also helped TCAC pay for various animal surgeries, heart worm treatments and an open cat room.

“Improvement of the shelter itself is really high on our list,” said Seiss. “Every single purchase that is made here, whether it’s books or items, helps the animals. Every single purchase is entirely nonprofit. If you come in for a toy or if you come in for a book, you’re helping the animals. We’ve had phenomenal community support, and we feel like it’s only going to keep getting better.”