The Star-Herald

Bookstore sees success and expands in Presque Isle

Presque Isle’s only independent bookstore has expanded into a new space.

Owner Laura Hale has moved Neighborhood Books from 375 Main St. to a larger site at 260 Main St., Suite C, between the Aroostook Agency on Aging and Big Cheese Pizza. 

Before Hale opened in 2021, the area hadn’t seen a brick-and-mortar bookstore for nearly a decade. Maine’s Mr. Paperback stores closed in 2012, affecting sites in Caribou and Presque Isle. Now Neighborhood Books is one of three bookstores in The County, including Bogan Books in Fort Kent and Volumes in Houlton.

“I’ve always loved to read,” Hale said. “I grew up in Mars Hill and really loved the library there. I always spent a lot of time there during summer vacations and [it was] just something that I really enjoyed doing.”

The store’s success has enabled her to expand into a location that can support a larger inventory. Aside from more parking, the bigger store provides better storage and more room for books lovers to browse. 

While the former location had limited space, Hale now has a bookcase and an entire wall dedicated to Maine authors. Other walls hold nearly every genre, including an expanding selection of fiction for adults, young adults and children, and a few nonfiction books and guides from authors living in Maine.

“I have noticed with seasons come different favorites and genres, which I didn’t expect,” Hale said. “Romance was really popular last summer, which I did not see coming.”

Shoppers visit the newly expanded Neighborhood Books during the store’s open house on April 1 in Presque Isle. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

With the help of her family, Hale hosted an open house at the new location earlier this month. 

One lesson to draw from the pandemic was that if people don’t shop locally, then businesses will close, Hale said.

“A bookstore like this is really important because we are a small community anyway, so I think shopping locally for any sort of products is important,” said Katelyn White, a resident of Easton who has recently moved back to the area from Florida.

In the age of Amazon and digital downloads it’s surprising to see Neighborhood Books do so well, White said. She hopes the bookstore continues to grow in the coming years.

As Hale juggles raising a family, she is learning more about managing all the events the store hosts, like a monthly book club for customers to join after purchasing a book from her bookstore. 

In December 2021, Maine author and children’s book illustrator Chris Van Dusan visited Neighborhood Books for a book signing event. Since then, five or six other authors have appeared there. As she hires more employees, to help manage the store, Hale wants to invite more writers to Presque Isle.

Neighborhood Books launched a website in February, where people can start wish lists and request books from their favorite authors or fictional series. Hale ships out the orders for people in Maine and beyond.

Hale plans to host more events at the bookstore but for now is getting used to the new space.

“I’m hoping that sales continue to increase, and I just hired staff in the beginning of 2022,” Hale said.

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