No Other Book Like This is latest used-book store in Groton
You could blame it on the airline industry.
But it was probably inevitable.
Early last summer, 30-year-old Groton resident Colleen Lynch was about to fly out and visit a friend. She'd already dropped her dogs off at her parents' and was leaving for the airport when she got a notification her flight had been delayed.
With a bit of extra time, Lynch, an insatiable reader, writer, and a professional librarian who also has an online side business selling old and rare books, did what she usually does with a few extra minutes.
"I went to a used bookstore. I love bookstores," Lynch says. "I thought I'd just drop by Books Etc., because it was close by, and look around for a while." She's speaking from behind the counter at No Other Book Like This, the used bookstore she opened last August 1 — in the same snug Poquonnock Road location that WAS Books Etc (and, for a long time before that, the Book Trader).
Referring to her visit the day of the delayed flight, Lynch says, "I had no interest or plans in owning a bookstore. I love being IN them, but I had plenty going on and I had other plans."
But, as book lovers do, Lynch fell into conversation with Candace Elizabeth, owner of Books Etc., and in the course of a leisurely chat, they shared enough information that Elizabeth had a proposal.
"She said, 'I guess I need to buy a lottery ticket,'" Lynch laughs. "I asked why, and she said she'd been hoping to sell the store — she wanted to spend more time with her family — and the perfect buyer had just walked through the door. I gave her my contact information to be polite, but wasn't thinking seriously about it. Except ... I realized driving to the airport that I already had a vision for what I would do with the place."
Best laid plans
At the time, Lynch, who has a master's degree in library science from Simmons University in Boston, was working as a business and social media librarian at the Ives Squared branch of the New Haven Free Library. She enjoyed the gig but was hoping to find a job closer to Groton and, as such, had sent several resumes out. And yet, she couldn't stop thinking about Books Etc.
"The idea of owning my own used bookstore appealed to the dreamer side of my personality as well as my love for old books," she says. "That's why I named it No Other Book Like This, because I do love old books that might have been overlooked or forgotten. Practically, though, I also realized I had also gotten quite a bit of real-life experience that would help, too."
As a business and social media librarian, Lynch was giving advice to library patrons on how to learn more about topics like entrepreneurship and small businesses, which by definition became her own learning experience. At the same time, her online business selling old and rare volumes was growing, and through that she'd learned a great deal about how to write grants and business plans, deal with taxes, and maximize the possibilities of social media and self-marketing.
"It hit me that I'd never planned to have an online business either," she laughs. "That started because I can't resist an old or beautiful volume or a signed or first edition, and suddenly I had more books than I had room for. A lot of them came from boxes of books donated to the libraries I worked at that, for one reason or another, weren't going to be accepted. It got to the point where the other librarians would tell me to take a look before those were dicarded, and I'd end up taking a lot of them home.
"My parents looked at these growing piles of books and said, 'Is it your goal to read all of those?' I'm one of those people who DOES plan to read every book I get, but there's also reality. So, as an experiment, I listed 10 titles on ESTY and they sold. In a month I made a thousand dollars doing that. And I thought, 'This could work!'"
With similar confidence and excitement, then, and moral support from her parents, who'd instilled a solid work ethic, Lynch reached out to Elizabeth and a deal was struck. "I decided that the store had fallen into my lap and it was meant to be," Lynch says.
Like no other
To walk into No Other Book Like This is, in many ways, a familiar experience. After all, it's like other bookstores in that it has, ah, books. Lots of books. But it's different, too. In the foyer, there's a huge wall of shelves containing old and rare books — which might be different than a strategy that focused on current bestsellers and the familiar coterie of authors whose divine right geography is the eternal Kingdom of the Bestseller. There are also two comfy wing chairs — one of which, the designated "Dollar Chair," is piled high with overstock paperback bestsellers by an earlier generations of elite authors.
Behind the cash register, Lynch, with tumbling, dyed silver hair and a permanent smile, answers customer questions, makes change and sneaks treats to her two extraordinarily well-behaved dogs, Little Girl and Benny, who are idling on a bed under the counter. A Father John Misty song plays at reasonable volume. And, in tribute as well as because it makes a certain amount of business sense, books by or about recently deceased personalities/authors like Anne Rice, Betty White and Joan Didion are displayed.
The rest of the shelves, walls and corridors of the floor plan are separated into the usual categories, and Lynch and her sole other employee, Peddy Smith, are diligently reorganizing, shelf by shelf, to ensure maximum organization.
"We're getting there," Lynch says, adding that she hopes to create a small space for author events or musical performances and perhaps add coffee or tea for customers. There are chairs and tables throughout where you can just plop down and read a while. She also describes an impending Next Book program. Customers can sign up for free and, based on their purchases and preferences, Lynch and Smith will make recommendations of similar titles and authors the reader might not be aware of.
"One of the things I like best about being a librarian is the interaction with readers," Lynch says. "If you can help them find what they're looking for and, going forward, maybe point them in a direction that will interest them, it just doesn't get better. I hope we'll do that here, too."
Lynch pauses. "I realize it's easy to say a bookstore will be unique, but it's also familiar territory because it's the business of books," she says. "My vision is that people will feel comfortable here in the same way they do at Bank Square Books (in Mystic), the Book Barn stores (in Niantic) and Savoy Bookshop and ReReads in Westerly. I love those stores and they each have their own personalities that reflect and attract the community. I hope to do the same here."
No Other Book Like This
Where: 1064 Poquonnock Road, Groton
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon-Sat.
Good to know: At present, offers for used books will be in store credit only.
For more information: (860) 446-0302, www.nootherbooklikethis.com
FAVORITE BOOKS AND DISCOVERIES
Lynch, naturally, has favorite books she'll never part with, as well as favorite discoveries she was able to sell for a nice profit.
One never-to-be-sold book from her personal library is a signed collection of poetry by Robert Penn Warren that includes her favorite poem, "Tell Me a Story." Lynch found it at a used bookstore and freaked when she opened it and saw the signature.
"The thing is, it was hard to tell it was his signature," she says. "But I'd studied photographs of his autograph for a potential tattoo, so I was able to recognize it. You can't really make out the letters, but it's definitely him."
As far as commerce goes, Lynch once pulled a children's book out of a discarded pile that, she says, "Was so gross I didn't want to touch it." But she spied Dr. Seuss's name even though she didn't recognize the title. "I went ahead and picked it up, and it was a book of his called 'The Butter Battle Book.'"
Turns out the book was banned in Canada and pulled from a lot of library shelves because, though it's a children's book, it has a distinct and sharply satirical anti-war tone that angered conservatives. "I guess they stopped print runs," Lynch says, "which makes it a bit of a rarity. But when I opened it, I found something else. Seuss had signed it, and that made it much MORE of a rarity. I sold that for thousands."