People often tell me they dream of owning a bookstore. I actually never really had that dream. As an avid reader, I did love books -- those objects of paper and ink that you hold in your hands, that take you worlds away or teach you things you didn’t even know you wanted to learn.
I wished that I had access to the kind of bookstore that I frequented when I traveled to the Bay Area, taking with me a suitcase of paperback books to trade there. I felt the need for the same kind of bookstore here in Connecticut.
So, I took the plunge. When I signed my first lease in early 1995, internet book selling had barely begun. Amazon had yet to sell its first book! I wanted a bricks and mortar operation that served as an alternative to new bookstores. So, I amassed 10,000 like-new, used books and set up a tiny cafe offering coffee, tea, muffins and pastries. On April 30, 1995, Books & Company opened in a small starter location in the Spring Glen neighborhood of Hamden. At the beginning, I kept my day job running a nonprofit organization, but it wan't long before I wanted to put my energy where my heart was--in the bookstore. It needed me, and looking back--I needed it.
We were an immediate success, expanding into larger quarters in 2000 -- our current home in Whitneyville. As online book sales grew and e-readers became popular, new and used bookstores were drastically affected. About 80% of Connecticut bookstores that were open in the 1990’s no longer exist. We had to change with the times or close our doors.
We’re still here because we DID change and continue to look for ways to diversify our offerings -- greetings cards from unique, artist-oriented companies, and gifts that you don’t find everywhere, including locally made items. In 2005, I got a book (of course) and taught myself how to make beaded jewelry, which I now sell in the store. Many of the people who work here also share their artistic talents and skills: making hand-crafted, beautiful creations and teaching classes in the arts. It’s all about loving what we do.
The only thing I didn’t love was the coffee shop. Confession: I really don’t like coffee, and I don’t drink it! In 2009, Legal Grounds, the coffee shop owned by Teresa Fields (who is passionate about good coffee), replaced and expanded our coffee bar. We companionably share the space with the best coffee and pastries in town!
Together, we have been guided by a strong commitment to our community, providing lectures, author presentations, classes and music. In 2010, Books & Company and Legal Grounds started the Whitneyville Fall Festival, an annual event showcasing local artisans, musicians, nonprofit groups and food purveyors. In 2018, it will take place on September 15 on the grounds of the Whitneyville Cultural Commons, across the street. Throughout the year, we act upon our shared belief in service to our community by implementing projects to aid local nonprofits that help people in need.
As I write this, nearly 23 years after our inception, I still love what I do, and I work with amazing people who love it as much as I do. It feels more vital than ever to be involved in creating this oasis, a place apart from the stressful world around us, an extension of home.
So come and introduce yourself--we’d love to get to know you. And have you know us!