Many area book shops, music stores reopening Wednesday
It probably won't attain Black Friday status in shopping lore, but a lot of consumers have been waiting anxiously for Wednesday when the state of Connecticut allows, with strict guidelines, the reopening of many retail establishment including those much-loved, browse-centric bookstores, vinyl/CD shops, and musical instrument purveyors.
Here are some local establishments that specialize in such treasures.
The Book Barn, Niantic
"I suspect this will feel like not just another business day but a reunion to some degree, with many regulars we haven't seen for weeks — though we certainly had a lot of check-in phone calls in the meantime," says Glenn Shea at the Book Barn in Niantic. The used bookstore and its two in-town satellite locations are reopening with a new 11 a.m.-7 p.m., seven-days-a-week schedule.
And, yes, along with most of its longtime staff back — an outfit that could teach Brady/Belichick a thing or two about loyalty — the much-loved four-legged creatures who roam the grounds of the headquarter location are well fed and rested for a return to duty.
Unlike many area bookstores, the Book Barn has been totally closed since March 13, with no mail order or pickup service, so the reopening takes on a perhaps added poignancy, and of course with all precautions.
"I was very struck by how unanimously we had responses of support from people who saw the necessity of the shutdown and who were as anxious for our health as we were ourselves," Shea says. "It will definitely be the Book Barn during the New Normal, with masks and social distancing and such, but still with the friends and regulars who have kept the place going for so long."
The Barn will require masks for every visitor over the age of 2; customers should bring their own shopping bags; and, for now, the free snacks are on hold. The Barn will not be buying books until May 27, and will offer only store credit until June 8. For more information, visit bookbarnniantic.com or call (860) 739-5715.
The Telegraph, New London
For nine weeks, owner Rich Martin has stayed moderately busy with curbside pickup and mail-in orders, as well as some interior reonovations and a website redesign for his vinyl/CDs/books/media store on Golden Street. Wednesday is special, with a nod to reality.
"We are definitely excited to reengage with folks here at the shop but want to be cautious as we move forward so that everyone remains safe," Martin says. "The lives of our families and communities are more important than cash flow."
Masks will be required of all vistors, along with the immediate use of provided hand sanitizer on entry. The number of customers will be limited to provide comfortable and worry-free browsing in the small space, particularly, Martin says, given the abundance of new stock and releases and in awareness of the long-forestalled and leisurely pleasure of flipping through stacks of records.
For those still uncomfortable, Martin says he will continue to provide mail order and curbside pickup services.
Another new feature is The Telegraph's association with Magnolia Pictures, which is presenting a series of their curated music-related documentaries for special screening in your home. The first series, running through May 27, features films on Big Star, The Band, and longtime Beatles secretary Freda Kelly. When you buy a ticket to any of these movies, 40% of the net proceeds will go to The Telegraph, and the films are accessible through a link provided on your receipt.
For the time being, Martin will be the only employee, and he says he's not yet sure of the precise hours he'll be open, hoping to gauge with more certainty after a few days' business.
It might be busier than he thinks due to attention from The Telegraph's inclusion in "Behind the Counter," a recent 12-part video series examining the aura and magic of American independent record stores. Produced by Classic Album Sundays, Record Store Day and Dogfish Head Ale, "Behind the Counter" can be seen at classicalbumssundays.com. For more information on The Telegraph, access telegraphnl.com, the store's Facebook page, or call (860) 701-0506.
Mystic Disc, Mystic
A funny thing might happen to those hoping for easy access into Mystic Disc when the store reopens Wednesday. A pleasant diversion might be the massive outdoor used-vinyl sale set up out front on Steamboat Wharf. Featuring thousands of albums listed from $1 to $3, owner Dan Curland emphatically says, "These are not garbage albums. There's Jim Croce, the Beatles, all kinds of good stuff that might surprise you."
The sale suggests Curland has continued to buy collections during the "idle weeks" of the virus. Too, in addition to listening to the Mount Everest of albums in his personal collections, he's also sorted through the enormous backlog of store stock he's lovingly accumulated over almost 38 years in business.
"Eastern Connecticut has been doing a good job (with the virus)," Curland says. "People seem to have been paying attention, so I'm going into this reopening thing with cautious optimism. But we have to keep being smart."
Customers, limited to three at a time inside, will be required to wear masks; there will be hand sanitizer or soap and water, and a plexiglass or plastic partition at the checkout counter. At first, Curland will probably be the only employee, and he's setting the hours at 11 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week.
"This is what we do, it's what we've always done and it's all I've wanted to to do. We've stayed afloat thanks to some really loyal customers," Curland says, pointing to, as a typical example, a longtime Disc fan from New Jersey who recently ordered a $10 copy of Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow." "He could've found that a lot closer, but he wanted us to have the business. Man, that's huge."
Another recent project at Mystic Disc has been their "A Day at the Disc" Spotify playlists. Longtime MD assiociate Maddie Britt has been curating 15-song sets of favorite tunes from invited "friends of the store" and posting them for, Curland says, "the edification of the musically curious." (Full disclosure: This journalist was a participant.)
"It's been a fun exercise in the spirit of what we're about," Curland says, "and a way for us to keep connected. Now, we get to open the doors and see what happens. I hope it works because, once we say Go, my goal is that the next day I'm closed will be Thanksgiving."
For more information, go to mysticdisclp.com, the store's Facebook page, or call (860) 536-1312.
Works in progress
Other area books and music shops are in varying stages of readiness for reopening. They include:
• Books-A-Million, Waterford — The store has been open for curbside- and mail orders and welcomes customers Wednesday, following safety requirements. Hours are 11 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
• Spindrift Guitars, New London — Will initially be open from noon-4 p.m. Wednesday and thereafter Monday-Saturday by appointment. Two customers will be allowed in the store at a time in 30 minute blocks, and and curbside pickup for prepaid items and service will continue. Watch spindriftguitars.com or their Facebook page for updates, and call (860) 444-2112 for appointments.
• Sarge's Comics, New London — It will open at noon Wednesday. At press time, the store was still figuring out how best to work within state guidelines and will post hours and safety information on their Facebook page. Call (860) 443-2004.
• Bank Square Books, Mystic, and Savoy Bookshop and Cafe, Westerly — In an email, Anastasia Soroko, the stores' events and marketing manager, says, "While the Governor is lifting some restrictions on (reopening Wednesday), we don't have a set date yet that we will be reopening to the public, as we are working on a plan that is both safe and manageable for employees and customers alike. When we are ready to reopen our doors to foot traffic, we'll make a more formal announcement via our website, email newsletter, and social media channels."
There is no information on reopening status for The Book Trader in Groton, Guitar Center in New London, and Groton Guitars in Groton.
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All tickets purchased and gifts made during the event will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Scripps Family Fund for Education and the Arts.