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Mar. 27—PLATTSBURGH — Wendy Baker, new owner of Corner-Stone Bookshop in downtown Plattsburgh City, has visited hundreds of used bookstores all over the world.
"It's always the place that I go to understand more about the community and the culture and find treasures," she said. "When you can spend $20 and get two, three books — it feels like you've done something."
The former middle school English teacher and now vice president of educational advancement at Clinton Community College is a self-proclaimed "book junkie" who always thought owning such a store would be neat, but never imagined the dream would become a reality.
"It just slowly became obvious that this is going to be a wonderful part of our lives for a long time to come."
TURNING THE PAGE
Baker and husband, Rich Redmond, moved to the greater Plattsburgh area in June 2020.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the couple had barely explored the city's downtown and admitted she didn't know about the bookshop on the corner of Margaret and Court streets until she read a December article in the Press-Republican.
In it, then owner Art Graves announced he was ready to sell the shop and start his own next chapter, spending more time at home and, maybe, exploring something new in the future.
Graves had hoped to keep the shop, with its three levels and 70,000 to 80,000 book titles, intact until he could find a buyer.
"I cannot say enough about what he has done for the community in keeping the store, waiting for somebody else," Baker said.
Upon reading the article, Baker drove to Corner-Stone that same day.
"When I went in, I was immediately home," she said. "All I could see were books, which, for me, that means possibility."
The book lover went shelf to shelf.
"I looked at every book; I touched every book in the store."
And Baker said she could overhear Graves chatting with patrons, noting that she "got to know him a little bit by the way that he interacted with customers. It helped me to understand just what a wonderful, generous person that he is."
After talking with him that day, Baker said she purchased the store two weeks later.
NEW OWNER, SAME ESSENCE
It took a few months to transfer the store, but, after closing for a few days of spring cleaning earlier this week, the shop opened under Baker's ownership Thursday.
The shop's hours of operation will be the same, open Thursday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
While Baker plans to make room for more pop-up events and enhance Corner-Stone's digital presence, to make books available online, she said the core of the shop would stay the same.
"This store is treasured, because it's a nature walk through words," Baker said. "The essence of it won't change.
"We'll do some things to help it thrive and survive throughout whatever awaits us next, but it's essence is timeless and that won't change."
Baker, who connected with literature young after reading and then acting out the Nancy Drew books, said books were how she understood the world.
"From fiction to nonfiction, whenever I felt confused about the world around me," she said, "I would turn to a book and it would help something make sense."
But Baker's husband, a Nova Bus engineer, wasn't the same and mostly read technical writing and manuals.
So while the venture, she said, "is not the same for him as it is for me," Baker noted community was really important to her husband and said she has even spotted him picking up titles around the store with plans to read them.
"That excites me," she said.
Graves had told the Press-Republican that Corner-Stone Bookshop, which was first opened by Nancy Duniho in 1975, had navigated many hardships, like the retail move to big malls, big box stores, online shopping, e-readers and, now, the COVID pandemic.
"This store has just weathered everything," Baker noted. "It's just been a good strong community resource and it will continue to be that way.
"That's nice for people to hear in this age where everything we value seems to be going by the wayside at every moment."
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