The high-profile arrival of Books & Books Westhampton Beach has been greeted by success among shoppers and browsers, but has also stirred resentment among at least some customers of the town’s other bookstore, The Open Book, located “about a dozen storefronts away.”
The NYT covers the tensions, in which Open Book owner Terry Lucas “said Books & Books is on a course to put her already struggling store out of business.” Lucas also works as a librarian in Southampton, and had negotiated to sell the store to an employee early last yar though the deal was never consummated. Her store then moved to a new more affordable location “on a side street with less foot traffic” than her Main Street quarters.
Lucas claims that Books & Books Westhampton co-owner Jack McKeown came by her store earlier in the year and offered to hire her as a consultant. “It was like somebody punched me,” she says. “I said: ‘I don’t know why you’re coming here to ask me this. Are you under the assumption that I’m going to go out of business?’ And he said, ‘Yes.'”
McKeown tells the Times “we have been subjected to some pretty unfair treatment by a very small minority of people. My attitude is to take the high road here and not engage in any of this.”
When we asked McKeown about the situation earlier this month, he said that “since we opened on July 1, we have been met with expressions of gratitude by long-term residents, summertime visitors and fellow retailers alike for introducing so attractive and well stocked a bookstore into the greater Westhampton Beach area. Our business is booming, well ahead of plan.” He says they are “bringing additional traffic to the town center” and employ five local residents full time.
The Times notes that “even its opponents, some of whom have gone inside or peeked through the enormous front windows, have grudgingly admitted that it is a beautiful place.” McKeown tells us strong business at the new store “is confirming everything that our business model told us would happen. People are transferring their purchases here and away from the city or Amazon. To me it’s proving how resilient and how much larger the market is out here.”
Veteran bookseller and former ABA president Mitchell Kaplan, who has affiliated his separately-owned Books & Books store group with the new store for marketing purposes, says “the New York Times piece doesn’t tell the whole story.” He adds that “I know that all of us have tried to accommodate The Open Book in many, many different ways.”