An 800-square-foot bookstore located in the back of a coffee shop in Rockland is one of five bookstores in the United States competing for Publishers Weekly 2019 Bookstore of the Year Award.
“Small but powerful,” has been the motto of hello hello books since the store opened in 2011. Owner Lacy Simons said the nomination from Publishers Weekly shows that Maine has a place in the national bookselling conversation.
“Well, my first thought was we have to mop the store more. But my second thought was this is amazing for Maine,” Simons said. Having a chance to “advocate for Maine’s very specialized economy and talk about what it’s like to run a small business so far from the major hubs and grids of this country, I think it’s an amazing opportunity.”
The nominees for the annual award were announced Thursday at an American Booksellers Association conference in New Mexico. According to Publishers Weekly the four other bookstores nominated for the award were A Likely Story in Sykesville, Maryland; Classic Lines Bookstore in Pittsburgh; Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, Kansas.
Publishers Weekly, a weekly magazine known for its book reviews, has been naming a bookstore of the year since 1993. The nominees for the 2019 Bookstore of the Year Award ecnompass “a number of stores that have contributed to the current rise in independent bookselling,” the magazine’s publisher said in a news release.
Simons and three employees keep the doors at hello hello books open year round in the small coastal city of about 7,000 people. Despite the store’s limited square footage, hello hello books has an inventory of about 6,000 books.
Simons takes pride in the store’s ability to provide Rockland residents with books that push the limits of what they might not otherwise come across living in a small Maine community.
“One of the things I love about Rockland is that we are here in February, and we are still going, and that I am able to have an actual impact on the culture of readers in Rockland,” Simons said. “We can choose books that kind of push boundaries that might not otherwise be pushed and put books in front of people that they wouldn’t see anywhere else locally.”
Publishers Weekly will announce the winner of the Bookstore of the Year Award in March.