The Mountain Times

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The Bookmobile is part of a new chapter revitalizing Rutland Downtown

There's just something about the feel and smell of an old book.

It's summer days curled up on a porch chair with The Grapes of Wrath, The Good Earth, Dandelion Wine, or some other classic. Or a cold, wintery night sprawled on a couch with a dog-eared copy of a Stephen King fright fest. It's yellowing pages and that odor that brings back memories of visits to the town library as a kid.

Somehow e-readers just don't cut it.

"It's kind of like the comeback of vinyl records," points out Ruthellen Weston, one of two co-managers of The Bookmobile at 58 Merchants Row in downtown Rutland. "It's retro and cool to be reading books again. It restores my faith!"

Not that "cool" was the only motivation for Weston and her long-time friend, Donald Babcock, to open their used bookstore back on October 1 of 2012. But it certainly did help.

"People still read and they like to read books," Weston says. "Even young people are buying the classics again." She relays the story of a youngster that recently came into The Bookmobile and bought six classic books. "I asked her what class she was taking and she said she wasn't taking any. She just liked reading."

The timing for the opening of The Bookmobile could not have been better for Rutland. The only used book store in town, Annie's Book Stop that was out on Route 7, closed back in May of 2012. Both Weston and co-manager, Donald Babcock did not like the hole that this created and moved quickly to fill it last year. Or rather, they wrote a new chapter for used books in Rutland.
"We read an article about Annie's closing and decided to take a chance," says Babcock.

Weston and Babcock both attended Castleton State College and the late 1970's/early 1980's and have been in this area ever since. Weston, originally from Temple, NH received her B.A. in English while Babcock, who grew up in Rye, NY, got his Bachelor's in Small Business Management. They each have jobs outside of their new business, which makes for a challenging schedule. Weston works at Sandy's Bookstore and Bakery in Rochester, as well as Vermont Website Design in Rutland, while Babcock is employed with Sidekick Trading Card Company in Rutland.

4--bookmobile 2-reduced

The Bookmobile offers another bright spot in an apparent but gradual renaissance of downtown Rutland.

"We're no longer the new place on the block," says Weston, who notes that the Chaffee Art Center, Same Sun of Vermont, Small Dog Electronics and other businesses have set up shop since The Bookmobile opened its doors last fall. "Things are getting better down here in terms of the economy."

"There aren't nearly as many empty storefronts as there were two years ago," adds Babcock.

The Bookmobile, though not as expansive as Annie's space was, fits like a glove in the downtown Rutland area. As one of the Gryphon Square shops nestled in by The Sandwich Shoppe, it offers a wide range of both hard and soft-cover, used books in categories, ranging from the classics, poetry, music, fiction and sci-fi to non-fiction, reference, architecture, gardening/farming, arts and crafts, and much more. The store also has a limited selection of new books both about Vermont and by Vermont authors.

In addition, there are greeting cards created by local artists and a few other gift items for sale, such as coffee mugs and welcome mats - one reads "You Are Here." Most used fiction is priced in the $4 to $5 range, with paperbacks going for $1.75 apiece.
"We're doing pretty well so far, but not ready to quit our day jobs yet!" laughs Weston.

"Please come in and browse," adds Babcock.

The Bookmobile is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. For more information visit www.bookmobilevermont.com.

Photos by Glenn Reed