Barrett Bookstore to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day April 29
DARIEN — Barrett Bookstore, one of the oldest independent bookstores in the area, has undergone a series of profound changes during its lifetime.
Since its opening in 1937, Barrett moved regularly around Lower Fairfield County, first in two Stamford locations, then the Goodwives Shopping Center, before finally settling in its current abode in Norton Heights Shopping Center in 1989.
The store continued in a state of flux after Sheila Daley, the current owner, purchased Barrett with her late husband, Thomas, in 1997. The space was expanded twice to allow first for a children’s section and then a stationary section and a dwindling inventory of books that needed to be rebuilt. And, most crucially, not long after the Daleys took over the store, the rising popularity of online marketplaces and eBooks forced many smaller sellers out of business.
The Daleys, however, were an exception.
“We’re hanging in,” said Sheila Daley. “It’s not so easy. It’s a challenge with the online sales, but we have loyal customers who stay with us.”
Before taking over Barrett, Daley, a housewife and a paralegal, had no experience in retail. Her husband, also a retail novice, worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for 30 years.
Still, the duo persevered and made it work, something Daly and her staff will celebrate this Saturday by taking part in the third annual Independent Bookstore Day, a tribute to more than 490 independent booksellers in 48 states.
A signed copy of the children’s book “Olivia” by Ian Falconer, as well as other books, will be raffled off, as will various items designed specifically for the day by the American Booksellers Association. There will also be community puzzle making, games and story time at 11 a.m.
According to Daley, Independent Bookstore Day has grown in each of its first three years, involving increasingly more shops. The threat, too, of eBooks and online shopping has somewhat subsided.
“As far as eBooks go, that was a big sort of blow when they came out. Everybody was saying the demise of the paper book is upon us. Well, that has kind of flattened out,” Daley said. “I think a lot of people don’t really enjoy the experiences of reading the book on the screen.”
Events like Saturday’s, that engage the community in a way that a website cannot, have also helped.
“We try to hook up with different not-for-profits and host author events in town. We try to be as big a part of the town as we can,” Daley said.