In an economy where people are feeling the need to cut back on their non-necessity buying, why are people pouring out of a small shop in South Thomaston with bags and boxes overflowing with purchases?
At Lobster Lane Bookshop last Sunday, book lover Richard Sloane of Gloucester, Mass., said, “With such an extensive selection and reasonable prices, how can anyone resist?” He left the store laden with two cookbooks, a slender spice guidebook, a copy of “David Copperfield,” a two-volume set on Impressionist art, seven children’ s books, an account of local legends of southern New Jersey, a book about bizarre moments in baseball, a study of the Harvard-Yale football rivalry, a guide to the care and feeding of box turtles, a tome about teddy bears and a treatise on preventing bear attacks.
According to Lobster Lane Bookshop owner Janine York Heath, Sloane is not unusual for buying broadly and in quantity. Buying by the armload or by the box is typical for the people who come from as nearby as Spruce Head and as far away as Japan to visit what she called “this cigar box operation on the road to nowhere.”
With most hardcover fiction priced around $1.50, much general nonfiction ranging from $2 to $2.50, art books priced only slightly higher, children’ s books at $1 and a wall full of paperbacks at only 10 cents each, the prices are certainly a draw. As Heath put it, “These prices encourage trying out new things. If a dollar book on how to play the ukulele catches your interest, you don’ t have to ask yourself, ‘ Gee, do I want to spend $29.95 on that?’ “
“The same goes for books on bear attacks,” Sloane said.
The store’ s layout, with its warrens of book-filled rooms, conjures the feeling of a treasure hunt. With Heath moving from room to room, continually carrying in armloads of newly arrived books, there is always the sense that even a set of shelves you already visited now might contain something new and intriguing.
Heath, who divides her time between Maine and Pembroke, Mass., said she acquires the bulk of her stock from library book sales in Massachusetts and drives them to her store by the RV load most weeks. She has done this for many years, beginning by helping out her late mother, Vivian York, who owned the store for decades. After Vivian’ s death in 2006, Heath kept the bookstore going, “initially, to reduce the stock, but then I found I loved it,” so she began replenishing the stock again. She keeps the store open from noon to 5 p.m. on weekends from May through the end of September.
Many of the customers are regulars who possess a passion for particular subjects and “sniff around from week to week to see what’ s new in nautical or aviation or trains or firefighting,” Heath said. “Other customers just come in and disappear for hours, emerging with a real mixed bag of things.” Smiling brightly, Heath added, “It’ s my mother’ s legacy. Most people who come through the door are pleased by it, and that’ s what matters.”