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Bookstores on Vacation

March 10, 2022

Sandy and Ken bookstore shopping

Every year in March, our business closes for a much-deserved Spring Break. Its’s been an annual tradition since we started back in 1999. We start off with a storewide 50% off sale and a reduced food menu – then close completely for a few more weeks. It gives us a chance to deep clean, to reorganize, declutter, create displays and……. take some days off from the discipline imposed by retail hours.

This year, Larry and I spent a few days in York, Maine. We had reservations at the York Harbor Inn and started off in a snow squall. What! The snow seemed to remain mostly in the air though, swirling around us but not enough to build up on the roads or encumber visibility. We arrived just as dark came on and the snow started to get intense. Rising in the morning, every tree branch, every contour, was laced with snow. The sun was bright, the air warm, the ocean view stunning.

I try not to drag my best friend through too many bookstores when on holiday – I mean it’s his time too – but he’s super generous and supportive about my bibliophilia, and I think he likes the hunt too. At least for a few hours! We stopped at Douglas Harding Rare Books up the road in Wells. Right on the Main drag in a boxy unadorned structure, the interior is well organized, welcoming, and absolutely packed. Doug was sitting in a straight-back chair in the corner, eyes closed, catnapping.  We spent a few hours there and a few hundred dollars. I found three volumes of Rowland Robinson’s Sam Lovel titles. Artist, author, farmer, and abolitionist, Robinson’s homestead, Rokeby, is in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. I also found a few copies of Elise Masterton’s cookbooks written from her high-country inn, Blueberry Hill, in Goshen Vermont, which is very close to our place in Rochester.

Later that day, Larry and I drove down to visit our friend Ken in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Only 10 minutes south and across the river, Portsmouth is a busy historic seacoast town. Ken operates Sheath Street Books, a comfortable store filled with an eclectic inventory. Ken and I go way back and have a friendship spanning 30 years. We hugged, we laughed, we talked books. My favorite find at Sheath Street was Home Comfort – Life on Total Life Farm by Ray Mungo. Ken has a great collection of Beat Generation titles too and I always find a few titles of that ilk. After a few hours fooling around, we ventured out into the night, enjoyed dinner and music at The Press Room, and then wandered around the quiet late-night streets of Portsmouth.

Thank you, Douglas and Ken – for continuing the tradition of bookselling in America, creating physical spaces where one can peruse, touch and get lost in BOOKS!

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