PARISHVILLE When the BirchBark Bookshop opened 25 years ago, the stores owner, Timothy Strong, was not expecting to stay at the location for very long.
More than 80,000 books and millions of pages later, the store is still strong, thanks to many devoted customers.
The shop at 40 Ashton Road in the woods of Parishville is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Its remote location appears to be part of its charm.
Mr. Strongs collection includes a wide range of materials from local history to vintage magazines and records.
Right now we have about 80,000 books plus two tractor-trailers full to add now, he said. We have whats called a birthday store. So if you wanted to buy a Life magazine that was from your parents birth date, you can get one that falls during that week when they were born. People get a kick out of that.
Mr. Strong said his ex-wife accepted a job as the vice president of SUNY Potsdam, leading to the north country relocation. He earned a masters degree in English from SUNY Binghamton, was working on a novel and was looking for something to do in the afternoon.
What I thought was that I would start out here, but I didnt expect to do well out here. From day one people have kept coming and they keep coming, Mr. Strong said. The college students that come from Potsdam, Clarkson and St. Lawrence University have been so wonderful. They are polite, respectful and it is a joy to have them come in and visit.
The joy has been mutual, as numerous customers return year after year.
Ive been going the last 20 years and have been watching it grow ever since. He started out small and kept adding and adding and adding. Its quite the maze of bookshelves now, Hermon resident John Bray said. I just love talking to Tim about what hes into. Hes building paper, writing poetry, etc. He has an office separate from the store where he makes his own paper, writes the poetry and eventually publishes the work. He has worked with an illustrator to have his poetry published into a book. He always sets something aside for me in particular. I cant imagine a nicer guy to get along with.
With bookstores seemingly dying and some popular chains long gone, Mr. Strong expressed no concern for his shop.
Its very diverse and thats what makes it fun, he said. You never know whos going to come in and what theyre going to be looking for. Thats what I like about the job. Its not something that you dread coming into every day. I would like to send a big thank-you to my customers who keep coming back week after week, Mr. Strong said. The best thing is that I never expected it. Sometimes Ill be watching a little baby in a mothers arm and then the same kid comes in 25 years later. Ive watched so many kids grow up. I will say Oh, wheres your kid now? And the mother will say Oh, hes in graduate school now. I get a charge out of that.