As a tie-in to Independent Bookstore Day back on April 29, the website Huffington Post published its yearly list of top indie bookstores in the country. Saugerties’ own Inquiring Minds came in at 28.
The store’s owner, Brian Donaghue, said he was shocked to see Inquiring Minds on the list, saying usually only the “big boys” like The Strand in Manhattan or Powell’s in Portland, Ore. make it on the list.
“I looked at the list [like I do every year] and made it to maybe number 20 and stopped reading, feeling dejected,” he said. “So I put it down and my wife, March, said to me, ‘Did you see the list?’ and I said, “Yeah, it’s the same list with the same people. And she said, ‘No! You’re on it!’ It was a nice moment.”
Run by Donaghue, his esteemed manager, Dahlia De Jesus, and his 12 total employees, the store has become a Saugerties staple. “I’ve always said to myself that you have to put yourself out there, because you never know who’s going to see what you’ve done and who’s going to respond, because people sense the love and energy you put into something.”
On a recent Monday morning, around 10 a.m., the store already has a gathering around a table with muffled but excited chatter. Across the store near the chess tables, two women catch up over coffee, and scattered customers explore the shelves and array of sections.
“If you don’t integrate, why would anyone go?” Donaghue asked, referring to chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble. “It’s disrespectful to the community — we don’t match their cookie cutter model! Saugerties isn’t a strip mall.”
Donaghue said he’s grateful to his community for their embracing what he said isn’t so much a commercial store, but a collective space. “There’s people and groups that come here and meet on a regular basis, and they know this space is available to them,” he said.
“They come, and have their meeting, and it’s a cool thing. It’s great to be plugged into the community in that way. That’s probably my favorite aspect of owning a bookstore.” Brian said.
Small businesses, he stressed, are the backbone of every community, both in terms of revenue and community engagement. “That’s why it’s so great when something like [making it on this Top Indie List] happens because it helps to draw a larger audience for us and for any bookstore! Granted, the Strand doesn’t need any more attention and Powell’s doesn’t need it either, but for a bookstore like [Inquiring Minds] it’s great because it brings people into the community. Not only are they spending money here, but they’re afterwards going out to eat, and going into all the shops. So when something like this happens it’s meaningful for everyone in the local economy.”