Cobleskill bookstore offers lots of local literature

Allison Collins Catnap Books, at 574 West Main St. in Cobleskill, is shown in this undated photo.

For Greene County native Jim Brooks, 65, what started as a love of book collecting has led to 25 years of business ownership in downtown Cobleskill.

Together with wife Roberta, Brooks owns Catnap Books at 574 West Main St., where fellow bibliophiles will find used and new books of many genres, antique and collectible editions, and lots of local history books.

“I just had a real thing for books,” Brooks said. “I would go to auctions and buy boxloads of them and we would set up at local antique malls, then at one point, there was a storefront opening and we decided to give it a shot and make a go of it.” The Brookses have been at their first-floor Cobleskill location continuously.

Brooks, a former special education teacher, said he and his wife created the kind of book-strewn space they’d want to patronize.  

“We have primarily used (books), though we do sell some new books, but those are mostly local history,” he said. “Our books are categorized, so for example we have a fiction section and a world history section; each category has its own little section and there are a lot of piles of books.

“We get a lot of compliments, because we try to be customer-friendly,” he said. “We try to be helpful but not obtrusive and make things as comfortable as possible. It is quite cozy.”

Though 25 years of upstate business ownership hasn’t been without its challenges, Brooks said, he counts a varied and loyal clientele, with customers appreciating the similarly varied inventory.

“I think the community has been quite supportive,” he said. “Downtown businesses have it really tough today, but we have a lot of local people who come into the shop and I’d like to think that people view us as an asset to the downtown community.

“We primarily get people from the area and we live in a poor area, so we try to meet their needs,” Brooks said. “But we also have people traveling through or second homeowners and they have different interests, so we try to hit every group.  We have a wide variety of books and we like to say there are books here for the reader and the collector. There are dollar paperbacks by recent authors and first editions or illustrated editions and a lot of people around here like New York State or local history.”

Changing times, Brooks said, have meant he’s had to shift the way he sources books.

“Ever since eBay came on the scene, auctions are not as lucrative,” he said, “but we go to estate sales and people come in with books to sell us and we buy out people’s collections. We go to a lot of book and antique shows and there’s a community of book dealers and collectors that are all quirky but wonderful people, so we like that aspect of it. It’s a little of this, a little of that.”

And while prospective customers won’t find Catnap Books on social media, Brooks said, the store does offer some online sales through Amazon.

Though Brooks said retirement is a consideration, the love of books that started Catnap remains strong.

“We start talking every now and again about retirement … but what would we do then, except have more time to buy books? Then we’d need a place to sell them,” he said, laughing. “We do it because we love books and we love the people who also love books.”

In summer, Catnap Books is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, opening at 11 a.m. on Sundays. In cold-weather months, Brooks said, the shop is closed Sundays.

Through Sunday, Aug. 25, Brooks is hosting a 25th anniversary sale, with many books discounted 30 to 50%.

For more information, call 518-234-4514 or email catnapbk@telenet.net

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