By Rod Lee
Significant as is twenty-six years in business, Debra Horan, owner of Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, has no intention of settling for that particular milestone.
Booklovers’ Gourmet celebrated its latest anniversary—Ms. Horan’s first at the store’s new home at 72 E. Main St.—the week of March 2-7. A large sheet cake was put out for customers to enjoy as they sampled the “cultural oasis” Ms. Horan has established since opening her business in 1995.
Her goal from the outset was to create “a cultural oasis” in town. By every measure she has achieved that with a friendly local independent bookstore that defies the odds of “smalls” struggling and in many cases not making it. A combination of gently used books on virtually every subject imaginable, specialty drinks, fresh pastries, unique gifts including leather-bound journals, pottery, gemstone jewelry, bookmarks, aromatherapy and incense, handcrafted soaps and soy candles, jigsaw puzzles and children’s toys have worked to make Booklovers’ Gourmet popular with customers.
The event was a success, Ms. Horan said.
“It was a steady flow of people, I was happy with the turnout. I decided to spread it out over the week,” she said, choosing a five-day happening rather than limiting the festivities to the actual date of her anniversary, which was March 4.
Sandra Chase of Danielson, Connecticut, a first-time patron, and Sue Wargo of Thompson, a regular, happened to be in the store at the same time one afternoon during anniversary week. Both were complimentary of what Ms. Horan has accomplished.
“The merchandise is quite varied,” Ms. Chase said. “I’m more of a gift shopper. For books I usually go to Pourings & Passages in Danielson. It’s run by a priest from St. James School. I haven’t paid full price for a book in a long time.”
Deb Horan offers Sue Wargo of Thompson some anniversary cake at Booklovers’ Gourmet.
Ms. Wargo described herself as a customer of Booklovers’ “almost from the beginning. I’m a retired librarian and taught in many schools. I am a voracious reader. It could be a bestseller or a used book. I like the collegiality and the chance to talk about books. It’s kind of like Cheers for the bookish. Everyone knows your name.”
Ms. Horan moved Booklovers’ Gourmet from its previous location just down the block and on the other side of the street on April 1 of last year but “didn’t open until mid-May” because of the pandemic—and then on a limited basis. Like other businesses, she has struggled through the partial shutdown.
Her attentiveness to what it takes to stay current and interesting is manifested in “Shelf Awareness” emails she shares with her audience, periodically. A recent “Shelf Awareness” featured Robert Gray’s comments on a release from Rapper/Singer/Songwriter Dessa, entitled My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science and Senseless Love and praise for Gabriel Byrne’s “compelling memoir” Walking with Ghosts. Shelf Awareness also includes notes on “Great Reads,” “The Writer’s Life” and “Book Reviews.”
Ms. Horan expresses optimism about being able to return to normal.
“Yeah, I’m hoping to have warmer weather and do outdoor poetry readings,” she said. “I’m starting to plan things for early summer.
“I have more ideas,” she said: a hint that Booklovers’ Gourmet will only get better. “Even extending hours a little bit” is a possibility, she said.
She is pleased that customers appreciate Booklovers’ atmosphere.
“I think people are starting to know that I have a lot of books but other things too, like gifts and coffees,” she said.