Last weekend Ron and I took a road trip to Potsdam, NY (about a four-hour drive northeast from Old Scrolls Book Shop in Stanley, NY). This is “The North Country” of New York State on the upper edge of the Adirondack State Park and just below the Canadian/U.S. Border. There are four colleges in the area, including SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University, as well as St. Lawrence University and SUNY Canton, both located in nearby Canton. College towns usually make for good book scouting territory. One of our goals was to visit Birch Bark Books, a used and rare book shop just north of Potsdam which we’d heard good things about, but never had the opportunity to call on.
We reached Potsdam at about 10:00am and reserved a room for the night right away—it can be difficult to get lodging in the area because of all the colleges and various events that bring parents & family to town. We settled on the Clarkson Inn, which is run by Clarkson University and is beautifully situated on Raquette River which runs right through the center of town.
Our first stop after that was the ACE Hardware store. Hardware, you say? Nooooo, BOOKS. The second story of the Maple Street hardware store is completely devoted to used & out-of-print books from Birch Bark Book Shop (estimated 20,000 books in the downtown location). This turned out to be a very pleasant place to browse, in a clean and spacious naturally lit area with a big window looking out on the falls of the river below. We spent a couple of hours here and found quite a few Modern Library titles we had been looking for, along with some other nice older stock. The friendly hardware store people down below checked us out and boxed up our books. The weather was sunny and warm, and we were hungry, so we hiked on over to Maxfield’s Restaurant to lunch on their river edge deck and refuel before looking over the next batch of 50,000 books down the road.
The Birch Bark Bookshop is located about ten miles outside the village on a quiet country road, and seems to get a good amount of walk-in trade (this shop has been in existence for 20 years, without listing books on the internet). Tim Strong, the proprietor, is friendly and knowledgeable, and offers comfortable browsing (there is even a woodstove in one cozy corner) and clean, well organized stock of interesting titles. There is a lot of charm to the place, and a whimsical woodsy touch to everything. Tim is a talented guy, and also offers framing and rustic furniture.
If you are ever in the Potsdam, NY area, we recommend a stop here – a tremendous selection of good books, great atmosphere, and reasonable prices. If you go: The main shop is located at 40 Ashton Road, Potsdam, NY and the hours are 1:00-6:00pm, Thursday-Sunday. Evans & White ACE Hardware, second floor (20,000 Books), 1 Maple Street, Potsdam, NY – hours 7:30am-5:30pm http://www.evanswhite.com/birchbark
When we headed homeward after a walk along the river the next morning, our intention was to make a stop at Jameson (SP) books in Canton, NY. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized they were closed on Sundays and so we’ll have to stop there another time. There are several flea markets and antique shops along Rte. 11, none of them very bookish, however. We did make a breakfast stop at a terrific little diner called the Silver Leaf on Rte 11. Great food and great service – homemade bread, thick ham and real maple syrup!!
In Watertown, we stopped at “Second Look Books” on Court Street – lots of paperbacks and common modern hardcovers (not exactly our cup of tea). We moved on to Jail House Antiques, an antique cooperative housed in a big old jail that was in use through the 1990’s. The first floor of the attached Warden’s house (also part of the shop) looks like it was quite pleasant in its day, with a mosaic tile decorated fireplace with built in book cases and French doors.
Here’s me looking through some books in a jail cell…
The place is a little spooky, as they have motion detector lighting in the cell area, and if you are quietly paging through the book, you can find yourself engulfed in darkness! I did find two worthwhile books here in a shadowy corner.
We came back with about seventy-five books, all high quality books and titles we know will please our customers. All in all, a very pleasant and successful quick book scouting trip to the North Country!