Fifteen Years Down

And how many more to go?

Thinking back to when I decided to purchase Otter Creek Used & Rare Books…

When I went for that fateful walk, leaving my cluttered desk to clear my head and figure out whatever issue I was dealing with. A brochure? The website? Wrapping up a project? I don’t remember. But I walked along Main Street and noted in front of the Lazarus Building a sign proclaiming “Used Bookstore For Sale. Inquire Inside.” I didn’t hesitate. I walked in, down the stairs, and asked, “How much?” He told me his price so I turned around and walked back up the hill to the Painter House to call my husband. “We are buying a used bookstore.” “Ok!” And to the bank I went.

Obviously the bank approved my loan and I went back to the store to hand over the check. I decided to take ownership on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. When I went in to accept the keys and other information he announced that the day before he had the best sales he ever had since owning the store. At first, I thought, darn! That should have been mine. But I quickly recovered and thought what a nice way for him to exit. He deserved it. How much did he make? I’ve no idea. I never asked him and he didn’t offer the information.

My first day, I tore apart the upstairs entry way. The books on the shelves disintegrated in my hand from the daily exposure to the sun streaming in from the large window. I changed out whatever had been in the window and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned that window. Inside and out. I wanted everyone to know a new owner was now in possession of Otter Creek Used Books. Yes, I dropped “& Rare Books” as I didn’t find any rare books when looking over the newly aquired inventory.

The first year owning the store I stayed in my position at ACCOC and worked weekends at OCUB. To pay the store’s bills. I roped my son and future son-in-law to run the store week days. Many days it was just sitting in the store with hardly anyone coming down the stairs. When I was in, I opened both doors – upstairs front and the basement back – to get some air circulation and to entice shoppers. Soon both doors were being used by customers.

One day while hanging out on the front patio I witnessed a block of cement fall from the overpass ceiling. Yikes! That wasn’t good. I decided to be proactive and find another site for the store. From my past workings with VTRANS and VT Railway, I recognized I could be shut down anytime. After a few inquiring phone calls, I spoke with Ryan at the MarbleWorks and he said, “I’ve got the perfect spot.” And I went right over to get a tour of this ‘perfect spot’ he was referring to. He was right! It was perfect and still is. We signed an agreement and the ‘Great Move’ began. Two months of moving something daily. Boxes of books, to display items. Shelving was torn down to be reassembled in the new space. Slowly sections materized and filled up with books. And the store became what it is today.

I want this space to be comfortable. Full of quality and interesting books. Priced to sell. My philosophy and business plan has always been to present this store as one would enter years before the interent. An old fashioned used bookstore. Like one found on the streets of NYC – Book Row – in the 30’s. Except heated, uncovered windows for natural light, and a pleasant bookseller who will sell you a book. 😉 Even if it’s one she’s currently reading.

I’m a very lucky used bookstore owner. Fifteen years owning OCUB. Ten years in the Historic MarbleWorks.

Rows and rows of books lined the shelves and I let my eyes linger on the sturdy spines, thinking how human books were, so full of ideas and images, worlds imagined, worlds perceived; full of fingerprints and sudden laughter and the sighs of readers, too.  – Kim Edwards, The Lake of Dreams

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