Despite a continuing national decline in bookstore sales, the owners of Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shops are confident and expanding their business.
Sherman’s has opened three stores this year – in Topsham, Windham, and Rockland – and now owners Jeff and Maria Boord Curtis are preparing to bring Sherman’s to Falmouth with the purchase and expansion this month of the Book Review in the Falmouth Shopping Center.
Sherman’s, which calls itself “Maine’s Oldest Bookstore,” originated in Bar Harbor 135 years ago. It opened at 49 Exchange St. in Portland in 2014.
Clare Lygo, who sold the Book Review to the Curtises, said it was the right time for her to retire. She said she had a gut instinct to reach out to Sherman’s, and Jeff Curtis was the first and only person she contacted about buying the business.
Curtis said he and his wife have long admired the Book Review and were flattered to get the call from Lygo. He said they’re excited not just to continue the business but to add Sherman’s concepts and build upon it – including moving the store a few doors south to the larger, former Lotus Restaurant space in the Route 1 shopping center.
Although bookstores have been in a tailspin – sales last year fell 28 percent from 2019, according to Publisher’s Weekly – Boord Curtis said all of Sherman’s locations, including Portland, are way ahead financially compared with previous years, even beating their previous highs from 2019.
Jeff Curtis said Sherman’s was able to weather the storm thanks in part to customers from out of town who visit on vacation and miss the local bookstores they may have lost in their hometown.
“Business has grown incredibly in the last few years,” he said, now that people have “rediscovered the pleasure of reading for entertainment.”
Support from customers throughout the early stages of the pandemic was also vital and continued even after Sherman’s closed a Camden store in 2020. The customer loyalty was “uplifting and inspiring,” Boord Curtis said, and the “emotional and financial feedback reassured us that what we’re doing is important.”
The desire to expand to more locations came from the success of the Portland store and the loyalty of the customers, the Curtises said.
Jeff Curtis said they figured if people were going out of their way to shop downtown at Sherman’s, they’d appreciate more conveniently located stores with easy access – and the former Book Review in Falmouth will appeal to those customers.