Main Street’s Back of Beyond Bookstore will soon have a new owner: former Moab City Manager David Everitt.
“I’m really looking forward to being part of the Moab community from this vantage point,” Everitt said. He anticipates closing on the sale in May and taking over operations from longtime store owner Andy Nettell.
Back of Beyond Books has been a community fixture since it launched in 1990. It began with a focus on environmentalism and regional ecology and history, with a special reverence for the late Moab author and activist Edward Abbey. The store retains those roots and now also carries new releases, local authors, and a variety of rare books and ephemera. It also hosts community events and supports local kids and nonprofits. Nettell announced last year that the business was for sale following the store’s best year ever, but he knew he wanted to wait until the right buyer came along—someone who would carry on the spirit of the store.
“It’s my fervent hope and prayer that whatever happens, Back of Beyond will remain as is, and that we find someone who has the aesthetic of what we’ve built,” Nettell told the Moab Sun News in January. After the store being for sale for months and several inquiries that didn’t seem like the right fit, Nettell is pleased to pass Back of Beyond to Everitt, who says he treasures the atmosphere of the store as it is, and has no plans to change it.
“I love the feel of the place, I love the mission of it,” Everitt said. For him the store is an embodiment of the Colorado Plateau region. “You can almost feel the sand under your feet when you’re in there—you know you’re in Moab when you go into that bookstore. And I know there’s a sense of that both for locals and for visitors.” For many, a stop at Back of Beyond is part of the Moab pilgrimage, Everitt said.
A Florida native, Everitt first came to Moab in the 1990s to work as a volunteer ranger in Arches National Park. As fate would have it, Nettell also worked as a ranger at Arches, and was Everitt’s supervisor during that time. Everitt later worked for Nettell again at Arches Book Company, a bygone local bookstore that coexisted with Back of Beyond. And, Nettell said, he was always a customer of the store.
“He’s got so many ties to Moab, both professionally and personally, that it seems really perfect to me,” Nettell said.
Everitt has also been involved with other Moab organizations including the Youth Garden Project and the Canyonlands Field Institute. He said the area has always attracted him.
“It’s always been the landscape that I’ve felt the most at home in,” he said. One reason he’s drawn to it is the impressive geology on display—he earned his undergraduate degree in that field from a school in the Northwest. Later he went to graduate school in Salt Lake City to study law, which launched his career in city government. After earning his degree he worked for Salt Lake City for several years and in 2016, became Moab’s city manager. In that role he helped navigate major issues like affordable housing, curbside recycling, the opening of a new wastewater treatment facility, and overnight accommodations developments. After leaving Moab City, he served as an interim administrator for San Juan County and then went to work for Park City. When he saw the Back of Beyond sale announcement, he saw it as an opportunity to make a life change.
“It’s a great way to be able to come back to Moab,” he said. “I turn 50 this year and it’s time to seek a little bit different balance in life.”
Nettell will also be seeking a new life balance as he steps back from the store and focuses on his and his wife’s new business, Stellar Books and Ephemera, trading in rare and antique books and other items like photographs and journals.
Owning a business will be a learning experience for Everitt, but he’s confident in the expertise of the store employees and the community support that’s been fostered over the decades.
“There’s a really great group of employees that are making the store what it is today,” he said. “It really is just its own community institution… the people that are working there give it that feel.” He plans to spend a lot of time in the shop, learning the ropes and greeting clients.
“I’m looking forward to that—it will be fun,” he said. “I know that I don’t know things—I know I have a lot to learn, no question.” For example, the rare book trade makes up a substantial part of the store’s revenue, and is a nuanced field of expertise. (Nettell will likely serve in a consulting capacity for Back of Beyond, especially in that aspect of the store.) However, Everitt sees that awareness of how much he has to learn as a strength. He’s willing to trust the experienced store employees to help him grow.
Nettell hopes that Everitt’s fluency in technology will also help “bring the store into the 21st century,” with an updated website.
In discussing the sale of the store with the Moab Sun News in January, Nettell said that business experience wasn’t the most important quality in the right buyer, and admitted that he himself did not have a conventional background for running a retail store. All the new owner would need, he said, was to “have a big heart, and a little bit of money.” Everitt brings a demonstrated commitment to the Moab community, and a longstanding love and respect for the Back of Beyond legacy.
“If we’d written a script, it’s about spot-on,” Nettell said.