Book Stores Are Part of the Summer Economy
By Anthony F. Hall
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The summer tourist season on Lake George has had an impressive start, to say the least. According to Mayor Bob Blais, Lake George Village saw its largest crowd on any single day in history on Sunday, July 4. (1.4 millions of gallons of water were pumped through the filtration plant; that’s a record.)
Spring was also a good season, says Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy. According to McCoy, occupancy tax revenue was up by 9% over last year, and the number of rooms booked for Memorial Day weekend and Americade rose by 10 to 14%.
But it’s not only resorts, restaurants and souvenir shops that benefit from the influx of tourists. Book stores also do well.
Michael Coffey, the Bolton summer resident who’s the co-editor of Publisher’s Weekly, the trade paper for the publishing industry, sent us a story about resort town book shops that’s scheduled to run in his paper which he thought we’d find relevant to Lake George.
“Running an independent bookstore is a difficult business, and those booksellers who rely heavily on tourists to stay profitable face even more challenges, like weather and being a bit out of the typical publishing cycle. Still, there remains a group of store owners who have found a way to make a living selling books in tourist destinations, and the 2010 vacation season appears to be starting off fairly well,” write reporters Judith Rosen and Claire Kirch.
Among the people the writers interviewed was Rob Igoe, Jr., president and owner of North Country Books, which has published and distributed books on New York State for the past 45 years
“So far things are looking up quite nicely,” said Igoe, and commented specifically upon the Adirondacks, where he said sales were up.
According to the article, Igoe said sales for $40 books may have slowed down, but those under $20 are “flying.” Among those he singles out are two North Country small-format coffee-table books: Mark Bowie’s The Adirondacks: In Celebration of the Seasons and Carl Heilman II’s Lake George.
Doug Dineen, whose Bolton Landing book store Trees carries all North Country Book titles relevant to the Adirondacks, confirmed that Carl Heilman’s Lake George was a big seller, as was North Country Books’ popular Adirondack Kids series, written by 20-year-old Justin VanRiper and his father, Gary VanRiper. With the recent publication of book 10, The Final Daze of Summer, the decade-old series has 120,000 copies in print.
While best selling summer beach-reads like Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy may be a boon to independent book stores in resort areas like Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, Trees thrives by stocking only books by local authors or in some way related to the region, said Dineen.
“We stock only books of local interest; we’ve found those have the most solid appeal in a tourist town,” said Dineen, who added that the store now carries more than 1,200 titles.
If readers want a mystery, a thriller or a literary novel by an author like Russell Banks, they’ll find it at Trees – but only if it’s set on Lake George or somewhere in the Adirondacks or if it’s by an author with ties to the region.
That relentless focus on the local has protected Trees the competition from big-box stores that’s a constant threat to most independent book sellers, said Dineen.
Local history sells well, as does anything about Lake George’s role in the French and Indian War, said Dineen.
If an author combines murder, local history and romance, she’s guaranteed a Trees best-seller, Dineen noted.
“We can’t have too many books about Chester Gillette’s muder of Grace Brown on Big Moose Lake, the basis of Dreiser’s American Tragedy,” said Dineen. “Everyone of them is a big seller.”
While Publishers Weekly reports that independent book stores are still struggling financially, Dineen said that Trees’ sales are consistent, despite fluctuations in the economy.
Trees, however, is almost wholly dependent upon the tourist trade; ever since the Sagamore closed for winters and became a seasonal resort, Trees has become a seasonal book store.
In Glens Falls, Red Fox Books serves the greater area year-round, but like year-round bookstores in other resort areas, it, too, has a summer season.
“We do see quite a bit of tourists during the summer from Lake George and further into the Adirondacks,” said Susan Fox. “We have several regulars who are only here during the summers.”
To meet their needs, Red Fox stocks up on Adirondack and Lake George titles, maps, trail guides and kids’ books.
But as a general interest book store, Red Fox also carries the beach-reads demanded by residents and tourists alike: the Stieg Larson books, Nelson DeMille’s Lion series and Alan Furst’s new historical thriller.
If you’re buying a mass market book for the porch, the dock, the deck or the beach, buy it at Red Fox. Your purchase will help ensure that the shop will still be here for you next summer (and next winter, too, for the rest of us.)