Home Bookselling Booktenders bookstore opens on Route 1 in York, Maine

Booktenders bookstore opens on Route 1 in York, Maine

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YORK, Maine – “A town isn’t a town without a bookstore,” author Neil Gaiman once said, and Michelle Clarke said she took that quote to heart.

“York doesn’t have a bookstore,” Clarke said. “We really wanted to fill that gap.”

The Booktenders opened in May at 463 U.S. Route 1. Clarke, who owns the store with her husband, Rick, previously worked in publishing and raised her children in York for the past nine years. She said that in a highly digital age, she thinks there are still plenty of residents who appreciate a physical book.

“There’s something about having a book in your hands,” Clarke said. “We can provide a connection that you can’t get if you’re shopping online.”

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The Booktenders is a general bookstore that also offers fiction, non-fiction, children’s and young adult books, cooking and other categories. She said they’ve also received donations of “previously loved books,” although most of the books are new. The store will be open six days a week, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Clarke said she knew as a young girl that she would one day open her own bookstore. She said that when she was 10, she fell in love with reading and sharing books with other people. As an adult, she is still the same.

“I think books are kind of magical,” Clarke said. “I can spend hours in a bookstore or a library.”

Michelle Clarke opens The Booktenders, York's only bookshop, on Monday June 13, 2022.

Clarke then worked in publishing for 20 years, focusing specifically on education and healthcare. She met her husband, originally from York, while living in Philadelphia where they stayed for several years. They moved to York nine years ago to be closer to Rick’s family, as well as because they loved the local school system.

Clarke said the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown caused her family to reconsider their future plans and seek a new path. It was around this time, Clarke said, that they noticed a space had opened up on Route 1 – a free-standing building that was once a consignment store. Clarke said they decided the timing was perfect and signed the lease earlier this year to start selling books.

An exhibition of banned books is available at Booktenders in York on Monday June 13, 2022.

“(The pandemic) has helped us re-evaluate our priorities,” Clarke said. “Kindly made us think about some of our long-term dreams.”

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Bookstores experienced a decline in the new millennium. An article published last year by the US Census Bureau reported that there were 12,151 bookstores in the country in 1998, then only 6,045 in 2019. Their overall sales also fell by $16.8 billion in 2007. to $10 billion in 2017.

Owner Michelle Clarke and her husband, Rick, are thrilled to open The Booktenders, as seen on Monday, June 13, 2022.

Clarke said she was still optimistic that The Booktenders could become a mainstay in York, in part because of the resources available to new store owners like her through the American Booksellers Association.

She hopes The Booktenders can also become a new gathering place for locals who would normally have to travel all the way to Portsmouth to find a new book. She’s convinced there are enough people like her in York who still appreciate a local bookstore.

“There’s something really cool about walking into a bookstore and holding books,” Clarke said, “Discovering books you didn’t know you could read.”