My adventures as an antiquarian bookseller…

I remember when Milagros, Ron and I moved to Florida because Ron had retired.  After getting kind of settled in a fixer upper (it has potential , was what we decided when we looked at the house for the first time), I wanted to go out and get a job, because financially,  we needed the income.  After many interviews and realizing that the older guys I was interviewing with just wanted much younger looking chicks, I was so very much disgusted with the thought that I was being discriminated because I was much older than the others, shorter (much shorter) skirts, half-full-brain experienced candidates.  Sorry young things.  It is what it is.

I have always loved to read.  Books everywhere in our home.  I was reading one by the title of “Love what you do, and the money will follow.”  Yeah, right, I am going to make some money by just reading.  I kept on pondering on the title of the book and thought that I needed to expand my horizons and interpretation of the book.

One day, reading an article about used bookstores, the light bulb (energy-efficient, just kidding, there were none at that time, or maybe I didn’t know it then), went on in my brain.  Why not a used bookstore!  Immediately I felt I had something to look forward to and I could be my own boss.  That was on the list of things to accomplish, have my own business,  before I hit 50.  Getting too close for comfort.  Wow!  My own business!!

Started to do research, also started to buy lots and lots of books at garage sales, and started thinking where this store was going to be.  Ron (my always partner in crime, he was the guy with the reasons why things wouldn’t work, and I was the other one with the reasons why things  would work) and I started to take short trips around  where we lived and visited a couple of small towns in Seminole County.  Rent was always too high and not too much traffic. 

There comes into the picture Richard and Raylene, that just happened to come to visit us from North Carolina and we took them out that weekend to one of the towns we were considering.  Richard took a look around and very profoundly said “if you want to revive this town by yourselves and spend the next 10 years doing so, this is the place to do it.”  I didn’t like the sound of those words, because he had just burst my bubbles.

We decided then to go and have lunch in Mount Dora, considered the antiques center of Central Florida.  While we were sitting at a restaurant that had tall windows facing the streets, he said “now, this is the place you need to open your store.”  He must out of his mind, I thought.  Rents are so high here we’ll be out of business even before we started.  We finished having lunch and went for a walkabout in the town.  He had a good point.  Lots of traffic and people with shopping bags, an indication that people were shopping.

Probably all along you have been thinking, how could this woman who can hardly express herself in english think about opening an antiquarian bookstore.  That’s exactly what one professor told me one day in the store, because that had been his dream but he had not been able to do it.  I responded to him, you have the knowledge and probably the capital, but I have the guts.  We got along very well after that interchange.

To shorten the process of the birth of The Old Towne Bookshop, we decided that Richard and Raylene were right.  We needed to be in Mount Dora to succeed.  We found out that there was a building right on Donnelly Street (main artery of circulation) that had a second floor and one of the spaces (just under 300 sq ft.) was for rent at around $315. a month plus utilities.  Perfect, I thought.  After twisting Ron’s arm, I signed a lease and voila, we were in business.  Well, not exactly like that, but I need to edit, otherwise we’ll be here, me writing and you reading forever.  Ron went to his favorite hangout place, Home Depot to get wood to build bookcases, and I continued to buy books at garage sales.  We had one month to put it all together.

This is a picture of a new location after one year of being in a pigeon-hole, but that first year’s experience was priceless!

We must always have big dreams, go for them, and never, never give up, because this time it is not a rehearsal, this is it baby.  Make it happen, whatever your dream is.

I will continue later in other postings with the real adventures after we opened the store.  Met unbelievable people, learned so very much about this fascinating world of antiquarian books, but most of all, had an incredible journey.  I think it was Ron’s best time of his life.  Amen.

A toast to all of us making our dreams come true.  I have one in mind and I can’t wait to make it happen.  Will keep you posted.

Your Happy Contessa

9 thoughts on “My adventures as an antiquarian bookseller…

    1. happycontessa Post author

      Did you used to be a diplomat? What country were you an ambassador to? You are very good at compliments, and please keep them coming. Love each one of them! The first three photos are upstairs at The Renaissance Building on Donnelly. That was a great beginning for Ron and for me to learn a bit of that fascinating world. Is the store still around? The model is the woman that can hardly speak english. Moi.

      Reply
  1. raylene

    Precious memories of that weekend – and oh how dismal that first town was. Never ever believe Richard would soft peddle any opinion he has – why bother to render if you don’t go all out. We loved our adventures and all of our visits to Florida and Mount Dora. But although Mount Dora was always the place to go – the bookstore was were we always to come. Remember the good discount Ron would give? It was all fun and priceless! You and Ron look like children!

    Reply
    1. happycontessa Post author

      Yeah, I remember…You and Richard would bring us boxes of books for free, and Mr. Bookseller (Ron) would charge you full price less 20% discount. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him giving you a receipt. He was actually charging you for the books you wanted. That was Ron. He always wanted to show that at the end of the day, he did sell books. How precious. Thank you for all the great memories both of you helped us to build. Now, that is a great legacy. Life was so wonderful then and so it is today.

      Reply
  2. Mary Faber Munjed

    Those were very fun days for sure!! I miss my store so much! It was a great time in my life as well. I wouldn’t trade my life now though but great memories. I don’t get back to MD much but everytime I would go there the first place I visited was your store to say hello.

    Reply
    1. happycontessa Post author

      So nice to hear from you. Thanks for continuing to read. Yes, those were fun days. Would you believe I still have the round table you gave me when you were selling or closing your store? I take it everywhere I go along the tablecloth also. I am going to email you some photos of you, the other Mary and Annie when we used to be up there on Donnelly. I’ll never forget those days. Neither did Ron. Now we have to keep on moving towards new and exciting adventures, ie., your interior decorating career. Hugs.

      Reply
    1. happycontessa Post author

      Your comment is interpreted as a compliment, so thank you very much. I wish you the best in the endeavor you are thinking about. Thank you also for reading and commenting.

      Reply

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