Charles Petzold

Support Your Local Independent Bookstore

August 7, 2006
Roscoe, NY

Sullivan County, which hugs the south-western edge of Catskill Park in New York State, is not known for its bookstores. Apparently there's only one store in the entire county dedicated to selling new books, and that's Hamish & Henry, which opened two summers ago in Livingston Manor (the next hamlet east from Roscoe, where we stay during the summer), and is named for the owner's cats.

Sorry for the quality of this photo of their recent billboard, but we were dodging trucks on Route 17 to get a good shot. The man on the left is crawling through the desert in search of "literature."

The "Next Bookstore, 77 Miles" warning is just a bit exaggerated. For new books, you can go 45 miles back the other way (east on Route 17) to a Borders in a mall in Middletown in neighboring Orange County, and about 60 miles west is a Barnes & Noble in Vestal in Broome County.

(In comparison, within a half-mile radius of my apartment in Manhattan are four Barnes & Noble stores, a bunch of independent bookstores including Shakespeare & Co., the St. Marks Bookshop, Books of Wonder, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, Three Lives & Co., a Virgin Megastore, the NYU Book Store, and a bunch of used book stores, including the famous Strand.)

Used book stores are also tough to find in Sullivan County. A small but interesting store in Barryville is now closed, and the only other one we've found is in Monticello, which sells donated books to help fund a literacy center. Apparently it's a common place for kids to drop off last year's school purchases, so it tends to have a lot of classics, many in pristine condition.

We really need to drive outside Sullivan County when we start jonesing for a used book store. We recently visited Pete Popek's in Oneonta. (He was busy at the computer so we asked him what percentage of his sales were generated online. For his jaw-dropping answer, hover your mouse pointer HERE.) This Saturday we'll be driving to Cooperstown, and definitely dropping by the exceptional Willis Monie for an hour or two in his fascinating stacks. A drive to Binghamton later in the month will get us to Gil's Book Loft, and a little further west is the very classy Riverow Bookshop in Owego.

But for recent new books, we try to shop at Hamish & Henry, because Sullivan County really should have at least one bookstore. The books aren't discounted, but the store does offer a "Booker's Dozen" card. Buy 12 books and get the 13th free. If you don't want a card, that's OK too. (It's certainly not like the chain bookstores, where a salesperson might actually call you "stupid" if you decline to buy one of their membership cards.)