KENT — While bookstores may have struggled to stay in business 10 to 15 years ago with the advent of online retailers, the independent bookstore has experienced a resurgence in recent years. Kent’s very own House of Books is thriving, and undergoing some big changes as it evolves with the times.
First establish in 1976, this literary landmark came under new ownership in June when Kent Center, LLC purchased the business from former owner Robin Dill, who had owned it since 2013.
Kent Center, LLC owns Kent Barns, a retail, office and gallery complex in the village center comprising of historic barns that have been rebuilt with an eye toward modern architecture. Also owned by the Kent Barns group are several buildings on Main Street, including the House of Book building. Kent Center, LLC purchased the physical structure in 2014 prior to the purchase of the actual business earlier this year.
Under the management of Peter Vaughn, this local indie book shop has gained new life. House of Books will begin a monthly book club with the first meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, focusing on the book “The Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern and led by House of Books employee Tori-Lynn Bell.
Additionally, book signings have become a frequent occurrence. House of Books recently hosted a well-attended book signing and talk for “Edison” by Edmund Morris. Two more are planned for this month. On Dec. 14, naturopath Dr. Harry Ofgang and his son, Erik Ofgang will be signing copies of their new book, “The Good Vices” and on Dec. 15, Matthew Dicks will be signing copies of his new book, “Twenty-one Truths About Love.” More are slated for the new year.
Perhaps the most visible sign that change is underfoot is the large-scale, currently on-going renovation of the building that houses the shop at 10 Main Street. The structure itself is of historical significance to the town; built in 1900, it once served as Kent’s post office and Town Hall.
“The building had been used and abused over the years,” said Vaughn. “There was no insulation in the walls, the metal roof was over 100 years old,” and the electricals and plumbing were in need of upgrading.
This from-the-ground-up renovation also included a complete reconstruction of the adjoining building, foundation included. “This space will be for an as yet un-leased cafe and provisions shop,” explained Vaughn. His vision is for House of Books to be a destination where people are able to come in, grab a coffee or a bite to eat, cozy up to read a book, or work on their laptop using the WiFi that will be provided.
In keeping with another era of 10 Main Street’s past, the second floor will find new life as an art gallery and lecture space once completed. “Jaques Kaplan, a well known gallery owner, had his Paris-New York-Kent gallery on the second floor for years,” Vaughn said.
The renovations are expected to be completed by summer 2020 at which time House of Books will move back in from its current, temporary location next door at 4 Main Street.
As for its literary offerings, House of Books includes a little something for everyone, with a variety of front-list fiction, non-fiction, classics and a children’s section and local area guide books among multiple other genres. A small spinning display holds copies of books from independent publishers, something very important to Vaughn, who said they plan to expand their selection of independently published books once back in 10 Main Street.
Holiday items are also available. “We’ve got beautiful wrapping paper, calendars, advent calendars and Christmas ornaments made in Germany,” he said.
For more information, visit www.houseofbooksct.com.