(This article first appeared in the June 29, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
Harbor Books is a refined pearl waiting to be discovered in the historic town of Sag Harbor. Store owner Taylor Rose Berry, a native south shore resident, followed her passion for the written word and opened the antique style bookstore in the later part of 2014, a quick 22 days after signing her lease. She has created a cozy environment where bookworms can pass the time drinking coffee and introduce themselves to inspirational authors of past and present.
The Independent caught up with Berry for a chat recently.
Indy: Describe how Harbor Books has inspired and brought together the literary community.
Berry: We’ve been called The Literary Hub of the East End since opening. That was an incredible compliment. I set out to create an environment similar to a literary salon, reminiscent of les Grandes Dames des Salons Parisiens and then later in the 19th and 20th centuries of Gertrude Stein, Colette, and Edith Wharton — a place where writers, artists, and readers could gather to relish in literature.
We host book parties, work with local schools for their book fairs, and bring new and established authors into the community for events. I thought [opening a bookstore] was recognizing that books were still alive and well and supplying something that was still very much in demand especially in a community such as ours.
Indy: How did the idea come about for your Harbor Books Lifestyle concierge service? You customize collections for individual clients, what would you say are some essentials for a good personal library?
Berry: Books are something that are essential in a well-rounded home and we’re the experts on books! A library takes a lifetime to build, we set out to create a lifetime worth of books in a day. It’s one of my favorite things to do. Every library is customized to the readers’ needs, it’s a lot of fun and something really special. Knowing that we give people the gift of reading is priceless.
I love imagining our clients walking over to their shelves, running their hands over their books and picking up a book that we picked just for them for years to come.
I think to have a good library you have to have a little bit of everything and a lot of your personal favorites. I look at our home library and laugh because it really represents who we are and the blending of our worlds.
Indy: What is a classic book everyone should read and what is your recommendation for the summer?
Berry: Everyone has to find their classic. For me? It’s Atlas Shrugged and Gone With The Wind. This summer, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Sundays on The Phone to Mondays by Christine Reilly, Modern Lovers by Emma Straub, Sweetbitter by Stefanie Dahler, and Walk to Beautiful by Jimmy Wayne.
Indy: What notable guest frequents the store most?
Berry: We have a wonderfully loyal group of very notable customers but I’ve got a strict Bookseller Code [that] swears me to secrecy! Booksellers are somewhere in line with your bartender, therapist, or attorney — there’s a bookseller-reader privilege.
Indy: Has the digital age and e-books affected your business?
Berry: The act of reading is a sacred thing, the written word, the art of the story, all of it. It’s never going away. In our industry we saw the initial effects that the e-reader had and now we’ve seen the long lasting effects of the “real” book. The battle is over. Books won.
People have the desire for something tactile. It’s a desire that is innate even in little readers who have grown up in this technological age and I think it is the thing that will keep books alive.
Indy: Where do you envision Harbor Books in 10 years?
Berry: This one? Exactly where it is! The future locations? That’s still a secret. Sag Harbor is my home and this is our flagship so it will always be special. I believe that mantra “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
Indy: Who came up with the concept of the mural, yourself or the artist Kara Hoblin?
Berry: From the beginning the chalkboard was intended to be a center piece of the store. It’s the most photographed thing in the store (after the cats, of course). It combines our logo, which I designed from scratch and the poem [written by Beatrice Warde]. Kara is an amazing chalk artist that really brought it to life.
Indy: Every author has a quote they are known by. What would your words of inspiration be?
Berry: “When you step into a bookstore you are surrounded by the knowledge of the ages.” I never graduated college. When I landed in the bookstore I remember telling my mother, “Why would I ever sit in another classroom when I spend my days with books?”
Indy: Do you feel in any way connected to You’ve Got Mail and The Little Shop Around The Corner?
Berry: Growing up watching all things Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, that one always had a very special place in my heart. When I do story time with our little readers I think of Kathleen Kelly and I quote her frequently saying, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”
I think that really applies to all reading, what you read in a book, it becomes part of who you are. I am the sum of all the books I have ever read.