Michael Curtis, owner of Union River Book and Toy Co. in Ellsworth, Maine, is the latest property owner to turn to bookselling to fill an empty storefront. However, unlike others in real estate, Curtis already had years of experience selling books before the store’s grand opening last month. His parents owned Sherman’s Books in Bar Harbor, which turns 125 next summer and is now one of four general book and stationery stores in coastal Maine owned by his brother Jeff Curtis. Two decades ago Michael Curtis opened a Sherman’s-style spinoff in Ellsworth, which has since closed.
Curtis says that he decided to open Union River (named for the river that runs through downtown), when the toy store that had occupied the 2,000-square-foot space closed. Because he was already familiar with the book business, the store, which had its soft opening at the beginning of the year, initially had stronger book sales than toy sales. By June, toys had caught up, says Curtis, who splits the selling space evenly between toys and books.
“So far we’re on the right track,” says Curtis, who continues to tinker with the inventory on both sides of the store to attract more teens.