Brimming with a bounty of more than 10,000 rare volumes and collectible editions, Antiquarian Bookshop in downtown Bend is settling into its new home at 1183 NW Bond Street. Owner Ann Maroe hopes bibliophiles, scholars, readers and even the mere curious come and discover timeless treasures amid her expansive, eclectic inventory of premiere pages.
The shop has actually been in business since back in 1963 when it began life in Scottsdale, Arizona courtesy of her famous bookseller father, George Chamberlain, whose expertise in buying and selling rare books was legend.
“I started my business here in Bend in 2001 to be able to learn the trade to eventually take over from my father,” she said. “At the beginning of 2005 he passed away and I closed the store on the corner of Bond and Oregon but still owned the building and went to Arizona to tend to his business affairs.”
Chamberlain’s renowned rare and antique bookstore was thriving at the time and at nearly 3,000-square-feet, included a massive amount of inventory.
“He was internationally known and when the new person comes in after a death you lose an element of credibility,” Maroe explained. “So I went down there and kept it going and beefed up the website and let people know who I was. One thing we did was put 8000 books online to reduce the merchandise. You lose customers no matter what and that’s pretty normal.”
Maroe spent five years in Scottsdale running the family business she’d inherited when all of a sudden, the trickle down effect with the bad economy hit hard. After 47 years at the same location, the landlord was not wiling to renegotiate or lower the rent so the decision was to move the entire operation’s collection back to Oregon – all 900 boxes of books!
“We needed a bigger space so I sold the building on Bond and Oregon and we moved to the new Wall Street site last February.”
Since they liquidated a lot of the books before they moved, it got the inventory down to a more manageable size. Now in 2400-square-feet, Maroe is able is stock her specialty sections with some of her favorite categories.
“Now I’m able to have my architectural books and natural history and large art books because they take up a lot of room. I have my Native American volumes and also the rare history books of each country, private press books and fine binding editions. Some collectors never read the book and know everything about the bindings and covers, like nice tooled leather with gilt and marbled end pages. We also carry a fine selection of 19th century first editions and 20th century signed first editions. We have many books that people can just read and not be a five-thousand dollar book but a thirty- dollar book people can collect and appreciate but still enjoy.”
Due to the invasion of popular e-readers like the Nook and the Kindle, times have been tough on the traditional bookstore and antiquarian dealer.
“The book business has changed a lot because of all these electronic readers on the market and on the internet,” she said. “We’re not as much reading books here as collectible books and they’re not making any more of them. People and publishers just aren’t spending the kind of money on bindings and expensive printings anymore. Occasionally there are some private publishers that will produce a limited edition book but even those aren’t happening now.”
Antiquarian Bookshop has clients and collectors of every age, even young people, especially men in their 20s and 30s, who started collecting Star Wars toys and books. They come in and are amazed when Maroe tells them they have hard-to-find first editions of Dickens, Sir Walter Scott and Longfellow.
“I didn’t know if it was in my blood or not and wanted to do it to help my father but you get very involved in it. Books are amazing entities. I learn something every hour of the day, not just every day. It’s really exciting hunting for things, like an early Daniel Dafoe of something else he wrote you didn’t know existed.”
Maroe credits the Harry Potter books and movies for much of the renewed interest in old books by the younger generation.
“Books were featured prominently in the films. The kids at Hogwarts were reading magical books and spell books and there were dusty antique books in the rooms and offices and part of the plot. One young girl came in to the shop and asked if any of the bookcases opened up to enter a secret room. I’m not to the point where the books are talking to me… yet.”
With all these wonderful stories and tales surrounding her, Maroe hardly gets to read anymore, which seems incredible but true.
“I’m so busy,” she said. “I’m 70 years old and have a broken arm and it’s hard to get around. I want people to come in and find me in our new spot and feel welcome.”
Her bookstore now has cozy couches to sit on and people can relax and look at the books as long as they’d like.
“We now have poetry aisles, biographies, metaphysical books and even books about books – on printing, engravings and printing. On the walls we have some beautiful Audubon prints and antique collector maps in a whole new separate map room.”
More than anything, Maroe is happy to carry on the specialized customer service and legacy of quality started by her father nearly fifty years ago. Many of their collector titles are also available online
“No one in the rest of the family wanted to do it but they’re happy I did it now,” she reflected. “I try to keep up with people in the industry as much as I can and think it’s important for book stores to exist. Ours is important because these books are history and I feel like I’ve become the keeper of the flame, to ensure these books are still here for future generations. Prices are good and this is an excellent time to start collecting.”
Antiquarian Bookshop, 1183 NW Bond Street, Bend, 541-389-7794, www.theantiquarianshop.com.