Bill and Lynne Compton are spending their retirement curled up with a few thousand good books.
The couple purchased the Cherry Valley Bookstore, in the historic Amos Swan shop* at 81 Alden St., earlier this year.
“We bought the store inventory on June 3 and we’ve been open a little over three months,” Bill Compton said. “Every month, business has gotten better, and we’ve had more customers.”
Compton, a New Orleans native previously of Florida, Georgia and Rhode Island, said he became aware of the property after his Brooklyn-based daughter saw it mentioned in an online article.
“‘Messy Nessy Chic’ had picked up the listing of the bookstore and a story about it, basically saying, ‘Hey, who wouldn’t want to own this used bookstore in quaint, upstate New York?’,” he said. “My daughter had sent that to us and when she was visiting around Christmas, we got talking about it and said, ‘What the heck, let’s go check it out.’”
Though he and Lynne could only glimpse the shop through papered windows during a January visit, Compton said, the upstate appeal lingered and they scheduled an official walkthrough.
“We came back a couple weeks later to see it and it had an estimated 15,000 books,” he said. “Though that could actually be a low number; no one really knows for sure, and a lot of those are pretty interesting books: books on New York state and regional history and a lot of first editions and signed copies.”
“It’s all used,” Compton, a former town planner, said, “but there are also very fine antique books and, even though I’ve never run a bookstore, we’ve been haunting bookstores for years and I knew enough to realize there was definitely some value here.”
Local and visiting bibliophiles, Compton said, seem to appreciate having him and Lynne at the helm.
“The store, itself, has been here 20-plus years … but there are a lot of (customers) that are local who are just learning we’re open and are very glad to see that we’re keeping more consistent hours and keeping it intact as a used bookstore. The community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We get a lot of people that come up here every summer or people with the Glimmerglass Opera. (Customers) are basically coming from within an hour and we get pretty much everything — young couples with children, older people and college (students). It’s really a pretty wide spectrum.”
“We’ve been making a few minor changes: rearranging, dusting and cleaning and adding comfy chairs so people can sit, relax and enjoy themselves,” he said. “We want to make it a place where people can come and hang out … and, as we learn what what’s selling, we’ll focus more on that.”
The shop’s selection of children’s books, Compton said, is proving popular.
“For a bookstore of our size, we have one of largest collections of children’s books that we’ve seen … and that’s something we want to feature that’s kind of fun,” he said. “My wife has taken that on, and we might expand that.”
Incoming inventory, Compton said, is sourced from thrift stores and similar places, though requests for specific titles are welcome.
Compton said, despite the newness of his later-in-life profession, he and Lynne are looking forward to settling in.
“Every day is a new day for us, but we’re learning a lot about the books that we have in stock,” he said. “So far, it’s been challenging and exciting and a lot of fun. I’ve always had a love of books and the Cherry Valley community is a great place. We’re committed to making this be and stay a reality and it’s very rewarding.”
Cherry Valley Bookstore is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.
For more information, find “Cherry Valley Bookstore” on Facebook, visit cherryvalleybookstore.com, or follow @cherryvalleybookstore on Instagram.
*changed at 9:45 a.m. Sept. 16 to correct the past of the store.