New London gets a new bookstore

The Monte Cristo Bookshop opened this week in New London with little fanfare and more than a few apologies.

The apologies were in the form of notices taped up all around the shop.

They say, in essence, bear with us on our opening inventory: More books representing a wider range of interests and a more eclectic sensibility will be coming soon.

As for fanfare - an opening reception or ribbon cutting - the owners say that will come, too, along with the bigger book supply.

Mostly, proprietors Chris and Gina Holmes Jones are happy to finally be in business, the first bookstore to open in downtown New London in a long time.

On Wednesday, they taped their first dollar bill onto the side of a bookshelf next to their new front desk. It was inscribed in black marker with the date they hope will turn out to be very lucky: 12-12-12.

"It feels good," said Chris Jones.

Taping up their first dollar was an easy tradition to accommodate, since they were waiting this week to get their credit card reader installed. They were hoping to get out of all-cash mode for the weekend.

The bookstore owners have been in planning mode for the better part of a year. They raised more than $10,000 in a public crowd-funding campaign and have borrowed from family and a bank.

They have leased a big open space at 13 Washington St., off upper State Street, and hope to create some synergy with a new restaurant in the same building, the Washington Street Coffee House.

They plan a full-service bookstore with a wide-ranging inventory of new and used books and some gifts.

They have begun lining up authors for book readings and signings. And they would like to see their store become a literary gathering place, for book club meetings or lectures.

Meanwhile, they decided to open for business even though they don't feel like they are quite ready for prime time.

But they had finished painting most of the space and organizing the shelves and books and decided to open as a work in progress.

"You see work going on in retail stores all the time," Chris Jones said.

The starting book inventory, which the couple says made the opening possible, was a collection they bought whole from a dealer, from a listing on Craigslist. Many of the books are new, and they believe they probably came from the closing of a Borders bookstore, since many still had their Borders stickers.

Most are sale priced, and serious book browsers will find a lot of bargains from the opening inventory at Monte Cristo.

Meanwhile, both owners are quick to apologize, suggesting the range of available books will become more interesting over time as they begin ordering their own.

And yet downtown New London has a bookstore again. You can put another mark on the hip little city checklist.

Both Chris and Gina Jones need to stop apologizing.

At least Chris Jones has a good opening line for customers: "Don't judge a bookshop by its opening inventory."

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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