Friday, January 8, 2016

For Sale: Book Store, Gently Used by Jim Hart

When I’m on vacation I like to wander through local independent bookstores and then support them with at least one purchase. Last year I stumbled upon Otto Bookstore in Williamsport, PA.

The only thing that can compete, for me, is the used CD store. I find myself unable to drive past either a good bookstore or a used CD store (just ask my wife).  But in both cases it’s all about the searching and the discovering.

The independent bookstores aren’t dependent on a large marketing and purchasing department to stock their shelves. They have the luxury of stocking their shelves with books that the ownership personally likes, right alongside the top sellers. You may find a treasure at these bookstores that you would not have found in the big chain stores.  At Otto’s I found Daniel Lanois’ memoir Soul Mining, and a really cool graphic novel version of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. And I picked up several other titles to use as gifts.

Otto’s is one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating bookstores. Their motto is "a booklover's paradise" since 1841. And it’s true. The 2,000 square-foot shop has books everywhere you look. On the shelves, on top of the shelves, on tables and on those spinning racks.

Owner Betsy Rider’s father, Jack Roesgen, began working there in 1905 and bought the business in 1940. Rider began running the store with her mother after his death in 1958. She was twenty-four at the time. So the store has been connected to the Rider family for over a hundred years.

And now it’s up for sale!
“Enough is enough,” Betsy Rider told Publishers Weekly, “Christmas was brutal.” Rider also noted that despite the slight decrease in sales from last season, at 81 years-old, she was finding it harder to keep up with the day-to-day demands of maintaining a bookstore. Following the sale of the store, Rider plans to retire.

So – who wants to buy a bookstore? For information about purchasing Otto, contact

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