Bookstore owner wants to create cozy community space
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — As soon as people walk into Neighborhood Books, owner Laura Hale wants them to share in the love of reading and sense of community that she has always felt in local independent bookstores.
Neighborhood Books opened on 375 Main Street in Presque Isle on Sept. 10 and is already becoming a favorite spot for both children and adult readers. Many customers, Hale noted, have told her how much they’ve missed having a bookstore in town.
“When you shop online, you can’t pick up a book, look through it or read the back cover,” Hale said. “In a store you can talk to a seller and get recommendations. You can look at everything on the shelves.”
Originally from Mars Hill, Hale has fond memories of shopping at B. Dalton, the bookstore formerly located in the Aroostook Centre Mall. After that store closed in 2010, the Maine-based Mr. Paperback moved in until its sister company, Magazines Inc., closed all Mr. Paperback stores in 2012.
Despite challenges that the pandemic and online shopping have brought to small bookstores, Hale said that the community’s support for Neighborhood Books has exceeded her expectations. She saw over 300 customers during the opening weekend and has seen just as many since then.
“While making a business plan, I had to predict the sales for the first month [of operation],” Hale said. “On the first day, I sold more than I thought I would sell the first month. On the second day, I doubled that amount. I’ve been floored by all the support.”
Hale’s customers have shared in her enthusiasm for reading and discussing books. On Tuesday Hollie Wolverson of Presque Isle stopped by in search of chapter books for her 8-year-old son, who is as fond of reading as she is.
“It’s wonderful to have a bookstore in town and to be able to shop locally instead of online,” Wolverson said.
Jessi Bragg of Washburn also visited Neighborhood Books that same day and found many children’s stories and activity books that she thought her daughter would enjoy.
“[The store] has a very good selection. I’m excited to take my daughter here sometime,” Bragg said.
In the future, Hale hopes to host events such as book signings and readings, community book clubs and holiday cookie decorating at the store. She aims to launch an official website and hire more employees to expand hours.
Though people can order from Neighborhood Books online through BookShop, a website that supports independent stores, Hale encourages local residents to stop by the store in person. While there, they can browse the current selections or let her know which books they’d like to see arrive with her latest shipment.
Like the store’s namesake — the children’s series “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” — Hale wants Neighborhood Books to be a welcoming, friendly place where people can bond over a love of great books.
“I want it to be a cozy little bookstore where you can find something everyone in the family likes to read,” Hale said. “I want people to come in here and feel at home.”
Neighborhood Books is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.