‘Get the vibe going’

The Midnight Oil offers books, music, ambiance — and poison dart frogs

Pablo Guzman opened the doors to The Midnight Oil bookstore in downtown Greeley precisely at 10 a.m. on June 16, but he had been at work a bit longer.

Guzman typically arrives at 9:30 or 9:45 to sweep, dust, switch on lights at various reading nooks scattered around the store, turn on music to “get the vibe going,” ensure that shelves “weren’t too destroyed from the day before” and generally prepare for a day of customers exploring the thousands of used books that line the shelves.

“I suppose every day is a little different,” Guzman said as he settled in behind the counter at 827 10th St. 

On this Friday, Guzman arrived a bit early, at 8:45. After all, there were poison dart frogs to feed.

That’s right, poison dart frogs.

In addition to cozy reading nooks, The Midnight Oil includes animals in displays around the store, including “four poison dart frogs, one albino boa, two tarantulas, two mantises and one jumping spider.”

“I was here earlier to make sure to feed the animals, turn their lights on, get their water going and their situation up and running,” Guzman said, as he settled in behind the counter.

Guzman is well-versed in getting situations up and running. He first launched The Midnight Oil at 916 Eighth Ave., in October 2021, building on his and his uncle’s status as “lifelong readers.”

“We started collecting books around 2020 or so, and we realized that Greeley hadn’t had a bookstore for about six years. And so between our personal libraries and garage sales, estate sales, thrifting, we decided that if we can build up this collection, we can hopefully start a really good used-bookstore in Greeley,” Guzman said.

The Midnight Oil proved a hit with customers, enabling Guzman to relocate the store to its location at 827 10th St., the former King’s Clocks location.

“Within less than a year, we grew fast enough and had enough support in the community that we had to actually upgrade spaces to what we’re doing now,” he said. “So prior to this building, we were across the street and had a space that was about 700 square feet. And now we’re just a little over 4,000 square feet.”

The Midnight Oil opened with 5,000 or 6,000 books, Guzman said, enough that he could fulfill an idea that he had when viewing the pillars that support the ceiling and roof.

“We have these support beams that support the building, and we were trying to figure out if we can do some type of display around them,” Guzman said.

“The one thing that we have in bulk is our books. We have a lot of them. So at this point, we have been open for six months or so, and we could start to tell what was selling and what wasn’t selling. If we had 20 copies of a specific book, we knew that we could use those extras for artistic purposes.”

Those “artistic purposes” are now evident, with towers of books surrounding the pillars, extending 15 feet high, with each tower including about 600 books and taking 15 hours to build.

The Midnight Oil also includes a banned-books section, children’s books and a section featuring local authors. It also has launched a books-to-film series in partnership with The Kress Cinema, with purchases including a book and entry to a movie.

As the day progresses, Guzman and his staff will answer customers’ questions, ring up purchases, tidy shelves and fulfill online orders.

And, of course, make sure that the poison dart frogs are well-fed.

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