For a lot of people, a book is almost a sacred thing. Because it has a life of its own, you just don’t throw them, you share them. Second hand stories is about the joy of reading and the pleasure of sharing from a veranda!
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was looking for a play from Noël Coward, so I posted on my Facebook page and one friend suggested that I should look into one called “Second-hand stories”. I liked the site, so I became a member of the community. The book was not available at the time, but one day, there was an old version of “The Shining” my daughter was looking for. I went to pick it up in Hudson and there it was: a bookstore, located on a veranda. I have a very romantic view of books and verandas, so I believe the story of this bookstore, and of its owner, would be worthy of a novel.
Here is the little tale of Andrea T Smith, book rescuer.
When did you start collecting books?
I have been “rescuing” books for more than 20 years when I noticed them being thrown in recycling bins.
Where does your interest come from?
I have always been surrounded by books. Growing up, our living room coffee table had books piled high, many full bookshelves, and bedtime stories were a must. I am very passionate about reusing and repurposing things that still have a function. It seems so wrong for books to be tossed when they still have a function. When there is such a need for books in schools, I try and help meet that need with whatever I can find.
When did your “veranda” bookstore start and why?
I have been collecting books for over 20 years and began “rehoming” them to people I thought would enjoy them. When my younger son was a year old, a friend suggested actually making it a business. I started keeping the books in a corner of my living room, and then in my dining room, and then my front porch was the next possible location, allowing people to look through the selection. My husband has made me 3 bookcases to make sure there are no boxes on the ground, but they fill up so quickly because there are always new books coming in.
What is the book that is most often asked for? Or quite unusual?
What I love is that the requests are so varied. I do get requests for the current “must-read” books, but for the most part I’ve learnt that there’s an audience for every book out there. The requests I’ve gotten range from obscure, out-of-print mysteries to a food processor cookbook from the 70’s. I get requests for everything you could imagine. There are times I can’t find what the client is looking for, and sometimes I find it on top of the pile of books I’m saving.
How do you price them?
The prices are based on the condition and age of the book. A lot of the time people are happily surprised by the price, and sometimes they negotiate which I am also comfortable to do.
How did you classify them?
I try to keep things in order, and when I am really organized the books are organized into their genres and sometimes even alphabetical order!
Are the books in English? French? Other languages?
I have books in both English and French, and occasionally find books in Spanish, German, Russian and many other languages.
How do you proceed for the orders?
When someone requests a book, I can usually remember whether I have that book in stock or not, even though I have thousands. If I have it, I make sure it’s in good condition and clean it up if necessary. Then it’s just a matter of setting up a time for the book(s) to be picked up.
Do you only sell online?
I have actually just started selling on Amazon. My prices are a bit higher online to cover my shipping and the Amazon fulfillment fees, but they’re still the lowest priced books. Now, my books that would have otherwise ended up in landfills or recycling centres are shipped all over Canada.
Have you always worked in this field?
I have worked in many fields, from gardener to a telemarketer. This started off as a hobby and turned into a little business for my husband and I.
Do you consider yourself a bookworm?
I love to read and love a good story. My attention span, however, limits my focus and I will easily bounce between 5 different books. I mainly read to my boys. I love doing silly voices!
If you have anything else you would like to add, feel free to do so.
I have also found so many treasures in the books I salvage. From post-war celebration photos, family photos which I have been able to get back to the owners, war badges, beautifully pressed flowers that have been in books for decades, and so many more surprises. I honestly never know what I will find, and that’s what keeps things interesting.
Plus, another passion I’ve been following is creating things with books that are not in the best condition but still have beauty in their pages. I make book wreaths, ornaments, garlands, pins, magnets and many, many other creations.
Facebook: Secondhand Stories