By Cathy B. Koplen
The Daily Star
---- — Oneonta’s Main Street is an easy place for shoppers to stroll while looking for unique items, handmade crafts and an assortment of culinary treats.
The Green Toad Bookstore is nestled in a row of historic buildings in the center of downtown. When visitors enter the lofty shop with its exposed brick walls and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, they are encouraged to meander.
A comfortable arrangement of lounge chairs and low tables beckon browsers to settle in and explore new books. In the back of the building, a children’s section offers a variety of activities, toys and books. There is a rocking chair, floor pillows and an over-stuffed green toad.
Michele Barry opened the unique book store about five years ago.
“I grew up in Oneonta,” Barry said. “I felt like a bookstore would be an anchor for my community. With two hospitals and the colleges… there was a need for something like this downtown, not Southside.”
Barry researched the industry and wrote a business plan. She kept an eye out for a suitable location. When the storefront beside the Latte Lounge came open, Barry knew it would be a perfect fit. She approached the owners of the coffee shop and an agreement was made to open a passage between the two stores.
“They have been great,” Barry said of the owners of the Latte Lounge. “The whole community is amazing. I love the people that live here. They have embraced the Toad.”
On a recent afternoon, Nancy Masucci and her daughter Sarah Masucci, both of Treadwell, came to the Green Toad to find a book.
“We like this bookstore,” Nancy Masucci said. “It offers a wide variety of books.”
The pair spent 30 minutes or more browsing the young adult section.
“I like the ‘Hunger Games’ and the Beka Cooper series,” said 13-year-old Sarah.
Artwork from area elementary school children is draped above the youth and young adult section pinned to a clothesline. Bright posters sing the merits of being a child surrounded by books. Wooden toys, puzzles, learning mats, arts and crafts kits, stuffed animals and puppets line lower shelves.
The Green Toad is more than a bookstore. In addition to the toys and children’s items, Barry offers cards, candles, scents and soaps. There are locally made scarves, jewelry, handbags and artisan crafts at the counter.
On the opposite wall hangs a small gallery of work from a local artist.
“There is so much art and culture here,” Barry said. “We are lucky to live in such a diverse place. Our cultural diversity is good to see.”
Barry said she is comfortable with her retail neighbors. The Green Toad sells tickets to events and shows for local businesses, and she will send a customer to another shop if she knows they have the item the customer wants.
“If I don’t have what they are looking for, and I know who has it, I’ll send them there,” Barry said. “And I know they do the same thing.”
The Green Toad sells more than just books, as it has to in this economy. The markup on books alone will not pay the bills.
In an attempt to capture and expanding market and offer a service to her customers, Barry has a link to her supplier on the Green Toad Bookstore website. The site is as inviting as the store, offering clear information in a pleasant setting.
“I am also getting ideas from my intern,” Barry said. “She has come up with some fresh insights and ideas on how to reach out on the Internet.”