You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps!

A opossum reading trash Monthly. So exciting!
A opossum reading "trash Monthly". So exciting!

Much of the charm of independent bookstores comes from the fact they’re run by eccentrics for eccentrics.  They’re often located in repurposed buildings with strange layouts.  Strange shelving patterns, odd floor plans, bizarre color schemes, and strange decor are the norm for independent bookstores.  And multiply the weird factor by 10 if its a used or antiquarian dealer.  The older the books, the weirder the decor should be.  We rather expect the antiqurian book dealer to use skulls for bookends and have a live raven sitting at the checkout. If the owner has an eyepatch, so much the better! Yes, an independent bookstore often looks like a Monty Python sketch will break out at any moment.

I have a good head start on providing the proper ecclectic atmosphere since Rainy Day Paperback is located inside a converted Victorian house.  The floor isn’t exactly level, the walls aren’t exactly straight, and there’s a boarded over fireplace in the middle of the shelves.  It’s hidden behind the romances, but its just visible if you stand on a  stool and look over the top.  There’s also two doors to nowhere.  One is a boarded over closet.  The other is no longer boarded over, but it was an adventure getting it open.

The door to nowhere was originally in a dead end.  We moved a book case and discovered the boarded over door. It clearly had to let out in the middle of the thrillers, but just had a book case over it.  This should just be a simple matter of moving the case and taking the door off the hinges.



We removed the other bookcase and found it had been paneled right over.  After a call to the landlord to verify we could cut through the paneling to open the door we then discovered it had no doorknob and had been nailed into the frame.  It was old and a bit rotten, so a sledgehammer took care of that.

Of course, this is a Victorian building in a small town in New England.  We’re across from the Masonic temple.  There’s a boarded over door with no doorknob that’s nailed shut.  Isn’t this the plot to a Steven King novel?

Fortunately no eldritch horrors decided to come crawling out of the classics section once we opened the door… but nobody would have been terribly surprised if Cthulhu HAD popped out of that doorway.  If I had a genuine gateway to hell I probably would get a lot more customers. Where better to put one than in the middle of a used bookstore?

Speaking of Cthulhu, I make my own sanity-stealing decor.  I’m a sculptor and when I have space available, various pieces end up down at the store, like this Cthulhu themed train engine.

The art of madness!
The art of madness!

(You can see a video of it in motion here. The eyes light up! )

A lot of what I do tends a bit towards the surreal…

Wildheart sculpture by H.C. ONeill
Wildheart sculpture by H.C. O'Neill

And cute.  I have a  serious cute habit.  But it’s still weird cute.

Seeing Eye by H.C. ONeill
Seeing Eye by H.C. O'Neill

Thus the art part of the business is called Cute, Cuddly and Cannibalistic.  I generally don’t bring the “cannibalistic” part down to the store because it frightens the neighbors.  Instead they just get the giant werewolf painted on the front window for Halloween.


The romance section features a completely, nice, normal restful still life of fruit. Until you notice the eyes looking out of it…

Eccentric?  Oh yeah.

1 thought on “You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps!”

  1. Nice post. It IS the eccentric about small, independent book stores that seems to attract people. I hope it remains so and that the plain,bland, homogenized world never overtakes the colorfully curious domain of the independent bookseller.

Comments are closed.