Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Life & Style

Breaking Bookstore News: Old Saybrook’s Harbor Books is Still Open

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That’s Grahame Burton, the owner of Harbor Books, the Harbor Books in Old Saybrook. He’s not going anywhere, except home at night, and then back to work at the bookstore again the next day. Photo courtesy of Grahame Burton

That’s Grahame Burton, the owner of Harbor Books, the Harbor Books in Old Saybrook. He’s not going anywhere, except home at night, and then back to work at the bookstore again the next day. (Photo courtesy of Grahame Burton)

Harbor Books in Old Saybrook is still open, and owner Grahame Burton’s love affair with books is as strong as ever.

That’s worth noting because another bookstore by the same name in Sag Harbor, New York has gone out of business and some folks are confusing the two.

“We have recently had a number of people come into the store saying that they heard we were closing. We were mystified by this, as we have never been considering this,” Burton says. “A little searching on the Internet seems to reveal the answer. About four or five years ago, someone decided to open a bookstore in Sag Harbor on Long Island and decided to also call it Harbor Books. This store has now closed, but not without a large amount of activity on the Internet saying that Harbor Books is closing.”

Burton just wants to make it clear that he has no plans to go anywhere, except maybe home for the night, and then back to work the next morning.

A Loyal Customer Base

“It is a pleasure to come to work each day. There are so many interesting people to meet and we have a wonderfully loyal customer base for both our new and used books,” he says. “Many customers almost use us like a library, bringing one book back for credit and buying another. We also have a very supportive Chamber of Commerce and local school system.”

Loyal locals are a good thing, due to the many challenges facing independent bookstore owners, and business owners in general, these days.

“The challenges of running a bookstore are basically the same as for any small business: rent/leases, reliable help, maintaining exposure, and curating an interesting selection of books to keep customers coming back,” he says. “The retail book business took a hit about 10 years ago with the advent of e-books and the rise of Amazon. However since then, e-books have been losing ground and we booksellers have better positioned ourselves to compete with Amazon.”

What Mark Twain Said

Harbor Books opened on Old Saybrook’s Main Street in 1988. The bookstore has been at its current location, 146 Main Street, Old Saybrook, since 2007.

“Beginning as, principally, a used-book store, we have continued to increase our new book offerings as other bookstores in the area have closed their doors,” he says.

With all that is going well for Harbor Books in Old Saybrook, the recent mistaken reports of the bookstore’s demise were all the more perplexing, until he discovered the source of the confusion, he says.

“To quote Mark Twain, who, whilst in London, heard that the U.S. press had mistakenly published his obituary. ‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,’” Burton says. “This could refer equally to independent booksellers and Harbor Books.”

Find out more about Harbor Books at www.harborbooks.com. Year-round store hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours in summer and the holidays. More information is available by contacting the bookstore at sales@harborbooks.com or HarborBooks@aol.com or by phone at 860-388-6850. In addition to books, the store also stocks a line of Old Saybrook townie clothing.


Pem McNerney is the Living Editor for Zip06. Email Pem at p.mcnerney@shorepublishing.com.

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