Before you bemoan the total disappearance of the small-time bookseller who tends to the printed word and offers full shelves of hardcopy of the same, look around your town, on corners and down streets and tucked into strip malls. Independent bookstores are hanging in, economically speaking. Some are even expanding their offerings to meet the needs of their loyal customers. The Hudson Valley, with its representative population of readers and writers, is an oasis for the indies, proving yet again why this is such a great place to live and work.
Of course, in an era of e-readers and online discount purchasing, the competition to move product through a viable storefront is stiff. Most retailers cannot match the price-points of volume sellers and still pay the rent. What they can do is serve customers face-to-face. They can get to know what people like and anticipate local buying trends. They can create a physical space of comfort where folks can linger and browse. And they can enhance the cultural vitality of the community.
The experience of walking into a room lined with jam-packed bookshelves, where a friendly, informed sales staff person makes recommendations or tracks down a title for you, is one that mega-companies like Amazon simply cannot replicate. And as the trend to shop locally has taken hold on many fronts in the Hudson Valley, it makes sense that book people, both buyers and sellers, would thrive here. A quick survey reveals a number of inviting, independently owned bookstores situated throughout the region.
The Golden Notebook
Since 1978, the Golden Notebook in Woodstock has supplied a steady and eclectic stream of customers with bestsellers, classics and everything in between. Started by Barry Samuels and Ellen Shapiro (it’s rumored that Samuels literally drove a truck to Manhattan, filled it up with books and drove back), the legendary store was purchased by Jacqueline Kellachan and Paul McMenemy in 2010.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” says Kellachan. “We just thought it was worth a try. Neither me nor my husband had any experience in the book industry; it was definitely seat-of-the-pants.” A recently renovated storage space upstairs now accommodates readings and events. “Author events not only help sell books, but also can give the customers more value.” Kellachan intends that the Golden Notebook become as much like a community center as possible.
The Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock; (845) 679-8000, https://goldennotebook.com.