Arts and Entertainment

Rare books wall-to-wall and end-to-end

Book store owners Bob and Nancy Fortner complement each other while they support books, rather like the handcrafted book ends they show for the “Christmas in the Country” tour Nov. 30.

“People may remember the annual book-ends show from downtown – we started it the year before the move,” Bob Fortner said. “We always, in our travels, looked for interesting book ends.”

The couple, who relocated their Winslow Way store featuring used, rare and out-of-print books to their garage three years ago, chose a varied group of local artists to fabricate this year’s book ends.

Cynthia Dice’s ceramic ferries anchor the absent-minded bookworm to Bainbridge, while Molly Greist’s Celtic knots and Kathleen Kler’s Chinese Calligraphy in wood whisk one away.

Tim LaGrandeur’s solitary birds in welded steel jostle Sharon Soames’ eclectic found-object book ends.

Islanders who remember the friendly atmosphere of the Fortner’s Winslow Way store will find the welcome duplicated in their cozy home setting.

Fortner said, “When people think of a home-based business by appointment, they think they’re going to be peering into your spare bedroom. But the store is a real bookstore – just set in the woods.

“The only feature missing is the foot traffic from Winslow Way.”

Without the constant stream of visitors, the store’s pace is slow. There is time to linger at the front desk and chat about a favorite book with the Fortners, overheard only by the nearby bust of palaver purveyor Mark Twain.

The one drawback, the Fortners say, is the need to remind islanders that the bookstore is more than a web site.

“That’s why the “Christmas in the Country” open house is such a good thing for us,” Bob Fortner said. “It brings people to us.”

The store will do ten percent of the year’s business during the “Christmas in the Country” weekend, the Fortners say.

The notion of moving their business home was inspired not only by the prospect of decreased overhead but also by their travels through New England.

“We found that lots of booksellers there had ‘book barns,’” Nancy Fortner said, “these large, uninsulated buildings with 50,000 books to go through. We said, ‘this has some appeal to homebodies.”

In New York State, the couple had also admired the rustic appeal of late 19th century Adirondack-style national park lodges, so they modeled their home and bookstore after that look –- but on a smaller scale.

“We built it with sweat equity,” Bob Fortner said. “It may look elegant and expensive, but we built it ourselves.”

Because the Fortner’s home store is smaller than their former Winslow Way building (the current site of Blackbird Bakery), the selection of books is not as extensive, the couple says.

The store does not give the impression of any shortage of reading material, however; booklovers could spend more than one rainy afternoon just looking through the 1,500 volumes in the gardening section.

Bookshelves are too full to accommodate bookends, no matter how unique, but it isn’t overcrowding that sometimes keeps new books from shelves.

“The biggest problem is that books come in here and get waylaid before they get sold,” Nancy Fortner said, “and pretty soon I’m overwhelmed by cookbooks.”

* * * * *

The Christmas in the Country Tour runs 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 30, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 1 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 2 (see sidebar). Call 842-6883 for more information.

To arrange an appointment to visit Fortner Books at another time, call 842-6577.

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