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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Bank Square Books departing downtown Mystic for nearby location

    Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Wojtas/The Day)
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    Annie Philbrick, shown in 2022 in the bookstore she co-owns in Mystic, Bank Square Books. (The Day file photo)
    Bank Square Books in downtown Mystic on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Joe Wojtas/The Day).
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    Mystic ― Lifestyle coaches and therapists who advocate a fresh start are fond of phrases like “Let’s turn the page” and “It’s time for a new chapter.”

    There are rare occasions when those literary analogies apply to actual bookstores.

    On Wednesday, owner Annie Philbrick met with staff and announced that her popular Bank Square Books, prominently situated since 1988 at the intersection of West Main and Water streets in downtown Mystic, will be moving in September to Stonington.

    The store’s new location will be at 80 Stonington Road across from the Big Y in the shopping center that houses Nest, Pier 1 Cleaners, Mystic Yoga Shala and Board & Brush.

    “As our mission statement says, Bank Square Books is here to serve our community, and to ensure that in a long-term capacity, we’re going a mile-and-a-half down the road,” Philbrick said in a phone conversation earlier this week. “We’d love to stay downtown, and there are already nostalgic heart-tugs, but there are issues. We struggle to do in-store author events because the floor plan is so divided, and the growth of downtown Mystic in recent years has made parking an issue.”

    In addition to selling books and hosting author signings, Bank Square sponsors children’s story times, book clubs and writing workshops, while merchandise includes greeting cards, calendars, audiobooks and gifts.

    Philbrick said that, while there’s similar square footage between the two locations, the new space has a wide-open layout that provides optimal merchandising space and added visibility and sight lines for live events.

    “We hope to be able to expand our in-store events in the new location because those programs are very important and it’s good business to expand with partners,” Philbrick said. “And I can’t emphasize enough that we’re doing this with our customers in mind. They’ve always been here for us and we want to make the decision that enables us to take care of our community.”

    Dan Morosky, who’s worked in a variety of roles at Bank Square for 30 years, said, “I vividly remember walking the soggy carpet left behind by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, feeling heartbroken at what seemed to be a total loss, when dozens of customers and neighbors showed up to offer any help they could.

    “It was proof of the value of a good bookstore to a community, and proof also that a bookstore is not just a building,” Morosky said. “Remodeling then was the right choice for us, and moving to the new location is the right choice now.”

    Philbrick said she hopes to be able to maintain the entire staff. “That situation hasn’t been determined, but our people are stellar, and we hope to bring everyone along.”

    There have been two other bookstores that operated under the Bank Square umbrella. Westerly’s Savoy Bookshop & Cafe was open for seven years, and New London’s Title IX: A Bookstore had a three-and-a-half year run. Both closed in 2023.

    Philbrick owns the building that houses Bank Square Books. In terms of plans for the space, she said, “It’s for sale and listed with Judi Caracusa of Sothebys.”

    Luanne Rice, the bestselling Old Lyme novelist who regularly does signings, participates on panels and is a frequent customer in the store, said, “I love Annie and the amazing booksellers at Bank Square Books, and I’m so grateful for the many events they’ve had for me and my books in Mystic. I will follow them anywhere, and I’m sure their devoted customers will, too.”

    Susan Kietzman is a Mystic resident who regularly walks to Bank Square Books. There, like Rice, she serves double duty as a customer and as the author of five novels who’s appeared at events in support of her books.

    “Bank Square Books is the heart of downtown Mystic ― and I’ll greatly miss their presence,” Kietzman said in an email. “Because I often walk to town, it’s been easy for me to pop in and browse, pick up a book I ordered online, stock up on stationery and birthday cards, and talk with my favorite booksellers. However, when I’m not walking, I’m in the car.

    “I may not get to the bookstore as often as I did on foot, but it will become one of my regular stops and remain my go-to place for author events and to leisurely peruse new titles. I trust Annie’s decision – she’s good at this! – and I wish her and the team all good things at their new location. And added bonus – parking!”

    Bruce Flax, president of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, also supported and understands the move. He said, “Bank Square Books has been a literal cornerstone of downtown Mystic for decades. Although it will be odd to not have them downtown, it’s comforting to know they’re just down the street in a space that will allow them to do more.

    “I’m sure the decision for Annie and her team was very difficult but the Mystic landscape continues to evolve and change. I commend them for making a move and not closing. It’ll be exciting to see who takes over the space and what the future holds for that little corner of Mystic.”

    “Sometimes change is necessary and good,” Philbrick said. “We’re excited about these growing pains. It’s going to be OK. I love this store and we’re going to make this work.”

    And, in anticipation of a question about the iconic whale statue in front of the store, she said, “Yes, we’re taking the whale with us.”

    r.koster@theday.com

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