Otterly Amazing. 14 Years. Thank you all.

“Thank God for books and music and things I can think about.” – Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

“Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent.” – Steve Martin.

“Sometimes we need all the glue we can get, just to hold ourselves together.” – Cecelia Ahern, Thanks for the Memories

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What a crazy year 2020 has been. I started it so happy. The store had made it. I was so confident final goals would be met. Then BAM! Everything dropped out. What the hell was going to happen to the store? The books?

I hung in. Every single day. I hung in. Stevie Nicks, John Mellencamp. Rearranging shelves. Customers who have become friends checking in on me. Knocking on the door. Calling me. Texting and emails. Leaving bags of books ordered outside for pick-ups and waving through the windows. Mailing boxes across the country and even to a few Vermont towns. All. All helped me get through a tough time for this used bookstore lady all alone in the shop. Heat off. Lights off. Saving money. Heading out to the car to warm up and taking a drive off the beaten path to connect to something. Nature. The world. Vermont. My familiar.

When the Governor gave retail the okay to reopen I did. I did delay a bit because I had boxes, ladders, stacks of books scattered around. I organized somewhat and unlocked and propped the door open to show the world OCUB was open and ready to do business.

Social distancing. I’m not sure those who don’t shop in used bookstores understand but that’s what us used bookstore people do best. We like people. But around books we want to be alone. Particularly in a shop.

The other thing I’ve been dealing with, all during this, is a torn ligament in my leg and the road to healing has been a long one.

So all-in-all, I’m hanging in. The store is hanging in. Received a Grant from the government and a small loan so I was able to pay rent. I also received a generous grant from the National Bank of Middlebury. That has given me the confidence to continue on and indeed I am.

On Saturday, Novembr 28 I will have owned OCUB for 14 years! It’ll be a quiet celebration but it will involve cookies from Sweet E’s, an up and coming bakeshop in Middlebury. Mmmm, cookies! Books!

Used Books – Used Bookstore

“Books are everywhere; and always the same sense of adventure fills us. Second-hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. Besides, in this random miscellaneous company we may rub against some complete stranger who will, with luck, turn into the best friend we have in the world.” – Virginia Woolf, Street Haunting

I know people coming to this site are expecting to see a database showing the used books offered for sale. My inventory. Unfortunately, you won’t. I like to consider myself as owner of an old fashioned used bookstore. That means you have to come into OCUB to see what’s for sale. What’s on the shelves. Note, I do have some online and they can be found on This site has ended up being a blog of random thoughts of being a used bookstore lady. Me. When I make time for it.

My first duty when I purchased the store – way back in 2006 – was to turn it around. Inventory to profit. So the emphasis was to clean-up the stock, and change things around. After owning the store coming up to 14 years, it’s still the mission. Boxes come in with ‘new’ books weekly if not daily and then my job is to clean them, sort them, price them, and shelf. CSPS. I’d love to take a day to just sit back, wait on customers and get a few pages in but I’m always so compelled to tackle the boxes and books. Get them up on a shelf. Find room. Look for creative ways to display them. A cycle I still follow.

I have stacks of books ready to have their jackets covered. So many, Floors to be swept and moped. Shelves to be dusted. Inventory to be reexamined, moved around. Finally found a spot for books on Germany. They got bumped to make more room for Spain. England! Churchill! Topics that have exploded. It’s the ebb and flow of a used bookstore.

Today will be a day to start preparing to decorate the windows for the upcoming holidays. I cannot wait. Lights, tinsel, ornaments. Just what my soul needs right now. I, for one, am looking forward to 2021. For nothing other than the restart of another year. I’m ready to put 2020 behind me. And I was so excited about 2020. Coming out of a strong year of sales in 2019. January and February equally strong. 2020 was to be a very good year for OCUB. Well, I’m still here so that’s a great sign. And a great way to leave 2020 behind me. So off to find those decorations and start in. And start covering dust jackets.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles W. Eliot

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

Books are Boats

Time is a river, and books are boats. – Dan Brown

Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world. – Jeannette Winterson

OCUB is running steady in this uneasy time we’re currently going through. In spite of being closed for several months. In spite of all that’s going on up on Main Street. The store is hanging in. I’m so appreciative of all the customers – new to the store, and regulars. Those who have had to navigate around town and not given up in their search to find OCUB.

The support I have been feeling is overwhelming. Including the store being closed an extra day (Sunday & Monday) as well as my closing at 4 pm rather than the usual 5 pm.

I also appreciate the response from those who ask me about buying books. Unfortunately at this time I will not be buying. Well, except for the book scouts who watch out for me and the store. Our relationship is long standing. As for store credit, I have suspended that as well for a time being. If you do have credit do feel free to use it starting now. Of course, if you have college books that program is still available.

I’ve been featuring books for sale on Facebook and Instagram (otterbooks). If you don’t follow the store on either of those sites you should. I have a lot of fun with it.

Time is a river…and books are boats. Many volumes start down that stream, only to be wrecked and lost beyond recall in its sands. Only a few, a very few, endure the testings of time and live to bless the ages following. – R.W. and Rev. Joseph Fort Newton, The Lost Symbol.

Otter Happiness!

“It’ll be all right, my fine fellow,” said the Otter. “I’m coming along with you, and I know every path blindfold; and if there’s a head that needs to be punched, you can confidently rely upon me to punch it.” – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

I was reading my last few posts and what a downer! I need to change it all up. I love owning a used bookstore. To open the door to start each day. A new adventure. Project. Or even take a few moments to read. To open boxes and see the new arrivals. At least those fresh out of storage. Not doing any good hidden away. Give them light! One must be optimistic and that is my general attitude. So…start acting it, Barbara!

There have been changes to the store. Mainly in hours open. And the ending of accepting books for store credit. Please note: if you have store credit, of course, it will be honored. And I thank those who do have credit waiting to use it in order to help the store stay afloat. Rent, taxes, electricity, insurance, etc. still need to be paid. I got through the shutdown because I am a business woman that always kept a small reserve socked away. And thank goodness as that kept me limping along.

I am currently now closed Sundays and Mondays. And I also close at 4pm. Two decisions that have helped me personally in caring for myself. And I love it. It was a hard decision because I’m all about customer relationships but sometimes one’s needs has to be a factor.

I have been bringing in and receiving new inventory every day. So exciting. My book scouts have been contacting me to see where I’m at with buying and have been very supportive. With my amazing loyal customer base I think the store will be okay. I’m ever so optimistic.

“Books can be possessive, can’t they? You’re walking around in a bookstore and a certain one will jump out at you, like it had moved there on its own, just to get your attention. Sometimes what’s inside will change your life, but sometimes you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes it’s a comfort just to have a book around. Many of these books haven’t even had their spines cracked. ‘Why do you buy books you don’t even read?’ our daughter asks us. That’s like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course.” – Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

Open! And Now it is Mid-June.

“The bookstore…had its own special aroma, the incomparable and unforgettable scent of books and dust, paper and ink, type and binding, the dazzling anticipation and excitement of seekers after books.” – Marvin Mondlin & Roy Meador, Book Row.

I reopened Tuesday, May 26.  Have to say, the store is so much better with lights on. They were off as well as the heat when I came to reorganize. I was excited when the GMP bill came. The lowest ever! And warmer weather arriving.

During the retail shutdown I discovered freedom. Free time. I could come and go as I wanted. Some days to warm up I’d hop in the car and go for a ride to clear my head and get a perspective of things. I can’t remember when I had such alone time. I liked it.

I don’t know the future of the store. If it’ll be able to stay open. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve turned it around twice. When I bought it. When I moved it. I honestly question if I have it within me to do it again. The good thing, I realized, if I can’t keep the store running it isn’t a reflection on me or mismanagement.

On a recent VABA Zoom call I was able to connect to other Vermont used bookstore owners. Encouragement, laughter, sighing, honesty but mostly moral support was had. None of us quite know what will become of our shops. There are changes from days open, hours open, to one going to appointment only. As for OCUB I will now be closed Sundays and Mondays. And possibly closing at 4pm some days.

Thank you to all who called, emailed, walked in to check on me, order books as well as gift certificates, asked for a stack of books to be brought outside to venture through. It was encouraging and helped me get through in ways you’ll never know.

When customers become friends.

May. What Happened to April?

That’s how I feel. What happened to April? I liked April. This year with all the craziness I feel I was lost and cheated out of something.


Taken by a customer during the start of our crazy time and in the middle of reorganizing the store. Honored by the support I’ve received during this down time. Note: Stevie Nicks is playing on my phone keeping me motivated.

Most days I have been coming into the store to clean out and organize the storage area. Heat off. Lights off. Music blaring as loud as I dare.

Recently I participated in a county-wide survey pertaining to what businesses need during this shutdown period. I wrote my responses from my used bookstore heart. One answer I gave surprised me which was I couldn’t continue as an island. A store unto itself. That’s really not who I am but that’s how I operated my shop. Head down and keep moving forward.

I, as everyone else, have no idea what the future will hold. I’m anxious to reopen as other retail businesses are. I currently have a mountain of work to do because I have been emptying out boxes and shuffling around inventory. Losing topics. Expanding others. I have so much to accomplish before I dare to allow people in. Ladders in aisles to piles and boxes scattered all about.

I only know I am moving forward. I might squeak by for a while but I’ve done that before. New inventory came in recently. A clear sign to keep going.

“I’ve learned a lot this year.. I learned that things don’t always turn out the way you planned, or the way you think they should. And I’ve learned that there are things that go wrong that don’t always get fixed or get put back together the way they were before. I’ve learned that some broken things stay broken, and I’ve learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you.” – Jennifer Weiner, Good in Bed.



Used Bookstores

She had a kind heart, though that is not of much use when it comes to the matter of self-preservation. – Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop

‘Why do you buy books you don’t even read?’ our daughter asks us. That’s like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course. – Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

I’m back from having a few days off from the world. Cleared my head. Read a few pages. Had my fav dish in the whole world or at least in my part of the world. I live for this meal and I’m never disappointed. I eat it with my eyes closed so I can enjoy each and every mouthful. And then walk it all off! Not a beach but in this case to the local theater to hear author, Lee Child. I have never picked up his books except to shelf but now I have to. What a down-to-earth author. He came across as clever and fun. So I need to look through my stock and see what I have of his and start in.

During this trip I stopped in a number of used bookstores. This trip was different as I cut the number down to just three. I’m a shop owner who sticks to a budget and I met that amount with the three shops. One store is in the middle of closing his physical shop, one recently moved to a smaller and less rent space (his third such move in fifteen years), another has changed its focus and concentrates on only one subject matter. All are trying to survive and live their used bookstore dream. It is certainly a time to readjust one’s business plan. Actually I’ve changed my plan multiple times throughout the years. One has to in this market. I’m in the middle of adapting another change but frankly I’m not sure which way to go or how to handle things.

OCUB has met multiple goals that I set over the years. Many were simple such as keeping it open my first year. The early days were a struggle because no one was coming in. I constantly changed the Main Street window display so those passing by would notice that someone different is running the store. I constantly added inventory. Daily. Something I still do. I had to work an extra year at my previous employment to cover store bills. That was hard because I was leaving a job I loved but it was time to move on. It was a leap of faith to believe the store would start paying for itself. But it did!

We recovered from moving from Main Street – no one wants to leave Main Street! – to the MarbleWorks. It took several years for customers to find the store but they did. We could expand and by rights we should. But it would mean higher costs. I don’t want to make that jump. The store is maxed but yet the size is doable when I’m working alone.

We are hanging in. But soon a decision will need to be made.

Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world! – Neil Gaiman

Piles and Boxes

antiquarianpile.There weren’t any curtains in the windows, and the books that didn’t fit into the bookshelf lay piled on the floor like a bunch of intellectual refugees. – Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

I didn’t imagine that I would be a used bookstore owner of such a jumble of a store. Piles of books here. Piles there. In boxes. Out of boxes. Piles constantly around my feet. Piles on piles. Boxes piled with piles of books atop. Bought a stool so as to sit up at the counter and it is piled with books.

What are the piles? Piles to be sorted. Piles to be shelved. Piles to be cleaned. Piles to be looked up for pricing. Boxes of books to be sorted. Boxes to be cleaned. Boxes to be looked up and sorted. Piles and boxes.

Am I complaining? Somewhere in there is one.  Then I have to remind myself that this is a used bookstore and there are no rules. Have I also mentioned that I get claustrophobic? I’m sure I have. The worse place for cluttering is found in the front room when my desk is. Doesn’t affect anyone but me (and Hannah, of course). Unless you are a customer who wants to look at the piles around me. And that is okay to do.

You see, I always thought my used bookstore would be ‘dignified’. You know, wood shelves full of leather bounds. Dust free. Arranged alphabetically. Rare books under glass protected from dust and fingerprints.  Aged atlas hung on walls that aren’t covered in bookshelves. Various works of art around on the walls, tabletops. Vintage and fine antiques mixed. Brass. And a crystal chandelier. Always a crystal chandelier. Oriental rugs. Antique library tables stacked (not piled) with vintage and one-of-a kind finds.

And, this is silly but when I see my vision of this store I see myself as a man wearing a wool jacket with leather patched sleeves, corduroy pants. Of course a hand-knit vest under the jacket. Good sturdy leather tied shoes. And smoking a pipe filled with cherry tobacco. A pot of tea with all the fixings and biscuits always at my ready. Volvo parked outside.

Understand I am a woman. I don’t own a wool jacket. Anymore. Never with patched elbows. I’ve never smoked a pipe. Tea. Why brew it when I have the teahouse right nearby. The Volvo is outside in the parking lot. My outfit is based on my mood since there aren’t rules or standards to live up to. So there’s that. Still, that’s my vision, as strange as it is.

My store is what it is. I love it for what it has become. I’d like it more organized but when it’s just me in the store or Hannah at one time it is hard to maintain any type of standard. It is just what it is to the best of what we can do within the day. Fortunately I hear from customers that it is cozy. And organized. Huh. I’ll go with that. That makes me happy. But I would like to somehow hang a chandelier in here.

The bookstore itself was cozy but not crowded… And it was filled with that wonderful book smell that anyone who’s ever even been near a book will recognize. It’s more than the smell of paper; it’s the smell of the high seas and adventure and far off worlds. It’s the smell of a billion billion worlds, each a portal to somewhere new. – Shaun David Hutchinson, At the Edge of the Universe




etiquette of book selling or ‘what do I need to do to sell you my books?’

ocub_hallwayIn the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend. _- Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind. (A great read!)

This is all my opinion.

I am a laid back owner. At least that’s how I view myself. This is ‘no rules’ store. No restrictions. No hold backs. Look in boxes on the floor. I’m okay to be interrupted. Ask whatever question you want. Climb over me to view the books I sell online. Etc., etc., etc. Except don’t go behind the curtain to the backroom. It may or may not be safe with piled boxes or even a path.  I’m in the business to sell used books and that’s pretty much all I care about. Books, reading. literature, publishing, and all that great stuff. And embroidery. Sure there’s more but I’m keeping it used books.

If you believe you have books to unload it would be a good idea to call ahead to make sure there is someone who will be able to assist you. In other words, here to negotiate with. I don’t always buy but generally will accept donations. Or offer store credit. I never do consignment. Never. It can become complicated and this is a used bookstore with no complications. No conflicts. No complications.

I make final decisions as to what is accepted and the price I offer because this is my store. I know. That reads very stern. Well, sometimes I allow the customer to dictate to me and frankly, that never goes well. For me. So I’m trying to ‘buck up’ and be more assertive. You see, when I first bought the store I was so thankful for anyone walking into the store. Potential regular customers. No. Most times when people brought in books to sell I realized they weren’t going to be regular customers. Potential customers. Maybe. Generally, I never saw them again. Not that I need to but I had hoped to. Still true today.

Books need to be clean. Seriously. I’ll offer more if they are clean. If I have to clean them I probably won’t buy them unless they are say, Hemingway first editions. I’ll even fight off spiders for them. Kidding. I do not like spiders. At all. No spiders in boxes! Check them first! Please.

I will go through the boxes or bags to determine which books I’ll accept.  Or as I like to say, will work in this store. In other words, will sell. Not all books are sellable. Or are right for this store. I have limited space and as you can tell if you’ve been in here recently we are maxed out. Hence the sales. And I’m feeling another one will be planned soon. If you’ve been in you know exactly.

The price I offer for books I’m buying might be considered low to some. The some who are looking to make a lot of money. I feel my used book prices are somewhat low. As low as I can make them. I do have an overhead I need to take care of – rent, utilities, and such. My competition is the internet. Not another used bookstore. Used bookstores complement one another. I have to determine how long the book will sit on the shelf, what price the book will sell in the store, condition and other factors.

So call ahead. Clean the books. I make final decisions. Never take the situation personal as I never do. And that’s it.

Please remember I do get claustrophobic. I work really hard to not get anxious about the boxes or piles of books surrounding me. I think I do rather well. Like for instance, I’m writing this blog rather than addressing all the recent arrivals into the store or that are still in the back of my truck that I know I have to content with. Just not now.

And all, thank you for your patronage. I really appreciate it. It is hard to have a retail business in this business climate but yet, it is so much fun. I love it. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

When you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book. – Christopher Morley


50% OFF SALE! 9/10-9/29/2018

OCUB_ext1“You can’t put a price tag on love. But if you could, I’d wait for it to go on sale.”
― Jarod Kintz,  This Book is Not for Sale

Yep! All books are on sale. Half-off. 50%.

I follow the example of a fellow used bookstore owner, Ben, of The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, VT. Check his store out! He suggested years ago when I have a sale make it a good one. His sales are always 50% off. So not wanting to miss out on all the fun he has, OCUB sales are always 50% off.

ocub_entranceThis sale celebrates completing our move from Main Street to where we are now in the MarbleWorks. Can you believe it’s been seven years we’ve been in this amazing location?

The Half-off Books Sale will run Monday, Sept 10 through Saturday, Sept 29.

“…Wow, when you put it that way… sure, I think I’ll buy a copy just to try reading, why not?” Mandy replied with a smile.”― Rebecca McNutt, Shadowed Skies: The Third Smog City Novel

Hope to see you.