Trying to figure out what to write. There is so much to be grateful for and so much troubling. 2020 wasn’t all that crazy in the long run. I’m closing out the year not so badly. Back in April I wasn’t sure if the store would still be open. But it is. Here I am. I have been working on this page since mid-December. Every time I sit down at my desk to finish it I find I just don’t want to type. I don’t want to express my thoughts because, frankly, I don’t have any. Crazy. I know. I don’t know what to think about this coming year. So I’m taking it day by day and will just let it be.

It’s been nice having people in. Even those who just wander in, walk around and thank me for the opportunity to connect with books. A form of some normacy. Actually they are the ones who fuel me. I recognize the store offers a comfort to those who appreciate books. Particularly, used books and their familiarity.

I am currently not buying books. Books that have come in are from very generous customers who donate them. I do not know what the future will hold. Will there be another manatory retail shutdown? I went into the first one with money set aside. I am prepared if we have to again. I won’t start to buy until I am confident the economy will bounce back. I feel my store is on edge to stay open or close entirely. I’d like to write that closing isn’t an option but then again…

I follow a business model that I have created over the fourteen years owning OCUB. It isn’t the one I orginally planned. I’ve adapted it numerous times. I like the model I currently have. I am a brick and mortar shop. My inventory can be seen inside my door. You have to come in to see what my shelves hold. I liken it to what used bookstores use to be. You know. Before the internet. Before Amazon came along and mucked up searching for books. Frankly I feel, they ruined the whole used book world. It’s all about the hunt. Hunting online is a form of cheating, right? Would OCUB be more financially secure if I sold online? Sure. Not doing so is my niche. Come inside. See what there is.

I do have news! I will be closed for three weeks in February/March. Not sure of the dates yet. I’ve missed out on little excursions to renew my soul.

Another piece of news is that this will no longer be a blog. I just can’t handle it anymore. Maybe I’ll get it back but I don’t think so. I’m going to use this page as I do for Facebook and Instagram. I’ll feature a book or two from my shelves. That takes the pressure off me. You’d be surprised how many drafts I have started but never finished. Owning a used bookstore is suppose to be fun and no pressure. Remove the pressure! Done! Anyways this blog was suppose to be a holder until I could afford to buy a database program. Guess that didn’t happen.

Thank you! Now, here’s to 2021 and well, whatever happens, we have used books.

Vintage outdoor OCUB sign with store elves

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

Preview(opens in a new tab)

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 AbeBooks.com. 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.



And Now Here is April

businesscards_ashtrayGreat news! I now have the ability to sell gift cards through Square on the OCUB Facebook page. Check it out, if so inclined.

Honestly, it has been quite a time for me and the store. I ended 2019 on a strong note with January and February equally strong. I was in the process of readdressing my marketing plan to prepare for an uncertain summer due to the upcoming Main Street construction. I took my books offline to reevaluate what I was offering. I purchased several collections to recharge the shelves. And then BAM! everything was turned upside down and I feel like I got caught unprepared for what was to come.  Fortunately I know I wasn’t alone but I have to come up with another plan.

You see, when I purchased the store I had to turn everything around – the physical space, the inventory, the reputation. It was a process that, at the time, was exciting because I knew there was only one direction to go in and that was up. I worked an extra year at my employment to carry the lack of business that store was experiencing. Then I took a huge leap of faith to leave that job and devote my time fully to the store. It took five years but I got there. The store became financially sound. Then I had to look at the future of the location the store was in. I knew from my previous employment that the building was going to eventually come down. And I knew the condition of the train overpass next to the store was in a bad way. The state could condemn it at anytime and that would obviously affect my business. So I decided to be proactive and started contacting landlords of spaces currently available in town. That led me to here, the historic MarbleWorks. That also meant I had to once again put my nose to the grindstone and work to get my business back. I almost didn’t make it but I did. So that was twice I had to turn the business around. 

Now I am faced with the very possibility of turning the store around for the third time. Frankly, I don’t know if I have it within me. When we were told to close I stayed away for a few days. Then I would come in to check the mail and the answering machine but I would leave because I just couldn’t deal with whatever was going on with the world. Here it is April 7 and I’m trying my best to address things I’ve wanted to do but couldn’t seem to get to it – change displays, go through shelves with a better eye and weed, clean, and other used bookstore chores. I’m trying to not be discouraged. All I can say is that once we are given the okay to reopen I will have one hell of a sale to try to keep the store going. But honestly, I am going be realistic.

For now, I wish all well. I look forward to reconnecting with everyone real soon.

“To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.” – Seneca


“Dreams are true while they last, and do we not live in dreams?” – Lord Alfred Tennyson

And now it’s March!

2020vaba_fair“Time passes. That’s the rule. No matter what happens, no matter how much it might feel like everything in your life has been frozen around one particular moment, time marches on.” – Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye

In this case it was February. And now it’s March.  A big sigh of relief. Thanks to all who stopped by to check out the I Hate February Sale. It proved once a gain to be a lot of fun.

March brings changes to the store. Hannah will now only work Mondays and every other Saturday. She has taken a position at Oxford Company in Cornwall. I’ll miss her and our routine but I’m very happy for her. She’ll now be surrounded with art and the ability to put her college degree to good work. I’ll be in the store Tuesday-Friday with every other Saturday off. Monday’s I still have charge of my grandsons.

Also March presents me with some down time. I’ll be getting away the week of March 23-27. The ocean calls me. Fried clams and the most delicious clam linguine on the planet. I’ve already started my pile of books to bring. Have my coffee houses picked out to put my feet up in and hunker down with a juicy novel. And Thursday evening of that week, author Erik Larson will be speaking of his new release, “The Splendid and the Vile”. Very excited to hear him and to dig into the book as I’m currently reading, “In the Garden of Beasts”.

On the last Sunday of March the Vermont Book, Posters & Ephemera Fair will be held in Burlington at the Hilton Burlington on Battery Street. This fair is sponsored by the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association (VABA) and is the 27th annual. The hours are 10-4 and it is free! I will be there this year as well as many of my used bookstore friends and mentors. For nothing else, it will be great to hang out with them. And to check out their tables and shelves. It’s always a great time!

One more March thing. Look for some store happenings on the 13th. I have owned OCUB for thirteen years and the on the 13th of each month I will host some kind of surprise. Or a sale. Maybe even both! Watch for an announcement on Facebook.

“My father was often impatient during March, waiting for winter to end, the cold to ease, the sun to reappear. March was an unpredictable month, when it was never clear what might happen. Warm days raised hopes until ice and grey skies shut over the town again.” – Tracy Chevalier, Girl with a Pearl Earring





Here it is again…February!

photo(4)I hate this feeling. Like I’m here, but I’m not. Like someone cares. But they don’t. Like I belong somewhere else, anywhere but here, and escape lies just past that snowy window, cool and crisp as the February air. – Ellen Hopkins, Crank

I am not a graceful person. I am not a Sunday morning or a Friday sunset. I am a Tuesday 2 a.m., gunshots muffled by a few city blocks, I am a broken window during February.  – Anna Peters

Seriously, February is the worse month of the year for me. Years ago, one day sitting in the store and just tired of grumbling, I decided I had to turn my mood around. One of my sale_sign_booksused bookstore heroes had told me that having a sale was a fun thing to do. For him and his customers. And when he has a sale he goes big. All books are half off. 50% off every book. So I thought, hey, if it works for Ben (The Country Bookshop in Plainfield, VT) then try it. And that’s how the I Hate February Sale began. 

I’m armed with chocolate and flowers. And a sale. February just got better.

February is pitiless, and it is boring. That parade of red numerals on its page adds up to zero: birthdays of politicians, a holiday reserved for rodents, what kind of celebrations are those? The only bubble in the flat champagne of February is Valentine’s Day. It was no accident that our ancestors pinned Valentine’s Day on February’s shirt: he or she lucky enough to have a lover in frigid, antsy February has cause for celebration, indeed. – Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume