The Book Shop at Beverly Farms looks like an old-fashioned bookstore, from its clapboard exterior down to the coating of snow from the most recent snow storm to hit Boston’s North Shore. Although the bookstore continues to offer many of the same extras it did when it was founded 45 years ago in 1968—like a house charge that’s been used by several generations of shoppers—“we have embraced change,” says manager Pam Price, who has co-owned the store for the past 15 years. She singles out Facebookand e-mail blasts. The store has had a Web site, “Realbookshop.com,” which Price added in 1997, when she bought the store with four other employees.
Other changes, including last year’s buy out of two of the partners so that the store is now owned by Price, Janet Weedon and Lee Brown, haven’t disrupted the cozy atmosphere of the 1,200 sq. ft. barbershop-turned bookstore. Children still climb a winding set of stairs to get to the children’s room where they can read and cuddle with a giant Candlewick bear. And customers who need a book after hours have only to call with a credit card number for Price to ring up the order and hang it on the back door so that they can pick it up later.
“We miss him,” says Price of the store’s most famous customer, John Updike, who died in 2009. “We really do still have a full shelf of [his] books.” Updike had made a tradition of signing his books at the store, which then sent them to fans all over the country. But new writers continue to move into the area. Two weeks before Christmas, the Book Shop held a signing with newly local author Chris Van Allsburg. “It was pretty incredible to see how much he means to families, teachers, librarians and—especially—children,” Price wrote on Facebook. She describes his effect on the children as: “magical. They came right up to him and put their arms around him.”
Sales for the Book Shop have not seen the boom that many bookstores near a former Borders location have experienced. Still, says Price, “we had a good holiday season. The year wasn’t spectacular, but the holiday was reassuring. We’re doing more book fairs than we’ve every done. It’s physically taxing but most rewarding.” The strongest areas on the adult side continue to be: fiction, travel guides, and history. Two of its top sellers are: Sonya Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World, and the Nancy Drew mystery, The Sign of the Twisted Candles.
As a “real bookshop” focused on real books, the store doesn’t carry e-books. “We just weren’t quite ready for it,” says Price. “I decided to wait.” Most of the Book Shop’s books are full price, although it discounts NYT hardcover bestsellers and offers a discount to schools, educators, book fairs, and book groups. And the store just celebrated its 45th birthday with a two-day sale.