Long Live Bookworks!

I never thought I’d have to write these words, but in the course of the Bookworks renovation we had to make the painful decision to take down the building. This was not a sudden, callous act, and believe me we would have saved it if we could. The building was in such bad shape that the HDC approved the dismantling in early December. The building was sagging around us to the point of danger, and the time had come to act.

A few key points:

  • We saved as much of the old wood sheathing as possible to use in the new building
  • We removed all the shelves and intend to put them back largely in the same configuration
  • We plan to paint the floor the same color blue (everybody asks this!)
  • It will look like the old building, but with a second story between the peak and the ground floor
  • We will pack it just as full of goodies as ever, and want to hear all your ideas to make it even better.
  • We plan to reopen for summer 2015, so pray for smooth sailing!

By way of background, my family bought the Bookworks building from Pren and Patti Claflin in 2000. We all knew it needed help. It had no foundation, had a concave ceiling and bowed exterior walls from having had too many interior walls removed, had had dry rot and pests in its past, and had a collapsed stone retaining wall resting against the building on the Jared Coffin side.

During the fifteen years we’ve owned it, we patched as much as possible. We replaced the doors and locks repeatedly as the building sagged, we mopped the rapids and waterfalls that had started to develop during nor’easters, and picked up the worms that came in during wet weather from under the shelves in fiction. (Let’s agree not to talk about the rats…) Complicating repair efforts, there were two beautiful, mature trees growing in very close proximity to the building which we did not want to disturb until they had reached the end of their lifespan, which has now occurred.

The extensive repairs needed are costly to say the very least. (I dare say that unless you’re in the business of extensive Nantucket core district renovations, you’d be shocked.) My priority has always been to try to find a way to keep Bookworks, but Bookworks cannot afford to pay enough rent to cover the needed improvements. Other revenue streams are needed, so we plan to put an apartment upstairs, storage space in the basement (so we won’t have to drive out to our storage locker near the airport on an almost daily basis) and another small apartment in the basement. This appeals to my planning side–mixed use buildings and more residents in Town. (Who knows, maybe someday I’ll even be able to live upstairs above the shop, just like my favorite island bookstore owner in The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry! A girl can dream.)

This has been such a tumultuous, overwhelming process (the gigantic sale, the endless moving, the looming demolition, the holidays) that I haven’t communicated the changes coming as well as I could have. As a person who has spent the better part of the last twenty years in my beloved cozy bookshop, I don’t have words for the emotions I’ve been feeling, but to stick with the positive I will say that I land on the side that this will serve the island for the next 100 years to come. At the end of the day, I believe that the magic in Bookworks has more to do with the people inside–and the treasure trove of enlightening books and amusing divertissements on the shelves–than it does with the building outside. I’m of the mind that Town should be a living and evolving place, and I’m confident that Bookworks will rise like Fawkes (Dumbledore’s phoenix for you Muggles) to be a fresh version of the magical place we love.

I’d love to hear your ideas for how to make the new space even better than the old – please respond to our survey and, if you’re on Nantucket, come to a coffee at Mitchell’s on Monday morning January 19th at 10:00am.

Thank you as always, Wendy Hudson

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