Sherman’s Books & Stationery is about to open its fifth store in Maine, on Exchange Street in Portland. With the closure of the 11-store Mr. Paperback chain in 2012, that makes it the largest chain in the state, possibly the largest in New England. The only other Maine bookstore group that comes close is Bull Moose, which has nine stores in Maine and two in New Hampshire. But only three of its locations—Bangor, Scarborough, and Mill Creek—carry books. Sherman’s also has the distinction of including the oldest bookstore in the state. Its Bar Harbor store, which originally housed a printing press as well as books, was founded in 1886.
Sherman’s owner Jeff Curtis told PW that he hadn’t planned to open a store in Portland. “I really wasn’t looking to expand,” he said. “But my daughter, Tori, who got the entrepreneurial bug, found a location that she said would be great for Sherman’s.” When Curtis went to look at the space, he agreed. Tori is handling the store’s design and renovation, which will be ready for an April 1 opening. She is intermingling books, gifts, and other products, rather than segregating them into separate rooms or sections as they are in the other four Sherman’s stores.
Although Curtis wasn’t looking to create a five-store chain, he said that it’s easier to run four or five stores than just one. “When I had one store,” he explained. “I had to do everything." With more stores, Curtis now relies on "very loyal, talented employees.” Plus, he adds that books sales were up last year. “We’re not really seeing a slowdown in books, and we do carry other stuff. The whole fear of e-books is a little exaggerated. People become more interested in all books. It doesn’t seem to be as disastrous as it was made out to be.”
April has a special significance for Curtis, not just because of the projected opening of the Portland location. It also also marks the 25th anniversary of the regional chain. Curtis opened his first bookstore in Boothbay Harbor in 1989, followed by a store in Freeport in 1998. In 2004, he added a bookstore in Camden, and two years later, when his mother wanted to retire, he purchased the Bar Harbor store.