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Posts Tagged ‘vinyl records’

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Photo: Bryan Anselm for the New York Times
Co-managers Maureen Disimile and John D. Ynsua at the employee-owned Montclair Book Center in New Jersey innovate to keep the magic going.

Who doesn’t find a bookstore magical — especially an independent bookstore? It takes a certain amount of flexibility and creativity to keep one going and not get plowed under by a certain online billionaire. If we all look for books first at our local indy, we can help keep the magic alive.

In New Jersey, Montclair Book Center has found that employee ownership, ability to improvise, and independent-minded customers are critical.

Dana Jennings writes at the New York Times, “Montclair Book Center is 35 years old, going on eternity. A ramshackle throwback to a funkier, more literary time, the store has shelves handmade from raw lumber. And its customers and clerks are often just as eccentric as the shelves.

“I’ve been shopping and snooping there since 1995 and still haven’t exhausted all of this biblioscape’s labyrinths and warrens — some of which, I suspect, lead to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. …

“I’ve stumbled across Italo Calvino limited editions, a hardcover of William Burroughs’s ‘Naked Lunch,’ and a stash of musty, black-and-white comics magazines from the 1960s and ’70s that included ‘Eerie, Creepy and Savage Tales.’ …

“The place is suffused with the sweet reek of ink, decaying pulp and vintage book dust — seductive scents that are like pheromones to book lovers.

“ ‘Unless you work at a bakery, you don’t get many customers talking about how good your store smells,’ said Pete Ryby, who has worked there since it opened in 1984 and is now the store’s primary owner. (Other employees own smaller stakes.)

“The pre-World War I building itself is so cockeyed that it looks set to pratfall down the street, as in some silent Buster Keaton two-reeler. … Still, the store is orderly if not antiseptic. Signs are hand-lettered; there are plenty of chairs for contemplation and ladders for climbing; and, whether by accident or puckish design, the crime section stops short at a fittingly dead end. …

“When I tell people about Montclair Book Center, I almost always mention Ynsua, a friendly 56-year-old filigreed with tattoos and earrings who started there in 1999 and who embodies its eclectic vibe. He owns five kilts and hundreds of vintage T-shirts — Count Chocula, the Emma Peel and John Steed ‘Avengers’ — and his passions as a bibliophile include comics, science fiction and pre-Renaissance European history. He’s also the store’s resident carpenter and a talented cartoonist who once studied at Joe Kubert’s cartooning school in Dover, N.J.

‘I’ve tried not to work for corporations,’ Ynsua said. ‘I like bosses who own their businesses. I like jobs where I can improvise.’

“There’s plenty of that at the Book Center. Indeed, improvisation has helped the store stay in business. Since it started selling used vinyl in 2014, for example, the records ‘have brought in a lot of new customers and increased foot traffic,’ said the co-owner Maureen Disimile, who manages the music side of the business. …

“A quick look at the records revealed a healthy infestation of Beatles; ‘Together,’ by Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells; the musical ‘Hair,’ in the ‘version originale française”’; and even the 1960s British blues rockers Blodwyn Pig. There was also a strong dose of 45s.

“Still, the store comes down to what employees call ‘book people.’ ‘I like being around literature, art and music, and the people who like that stuff,’ said Ynsua, who doesn’t own a computer or subscribe to cable TV. ‘My brain isn’t calcifying here.’

“Lucas McGuffie, a clerk since 2014, added:

‘The attraction is the books, and the book people. They aren’t stupid. They’re more open-minded. They’re smart enough to know that they don’t know all there is to know.’ “

More at the New York Times, here. By the way, if you love vintage vinyl records like the ones at the Montclair Book Center, check out a great R&B collection on my nephew’s site, here. For listening only.

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