BACKGROUND INFO ABOUT YOURSELF AND ARCTIC TERN BOOKS?
ATB: Much like the arctic tern, which migrates from pole to pole each year, I have lived a largely itinerant life. Born in Alaska in the early 70s, I have spent almost as many years living outside of my birth country as in it. First in the outback of Australia and later in the middle of Europe. For a variety of reasons, I’ve just kept moving and traveling and exploring until I finally found my way to Maine in 2018. Now, I’m the sole proprietor of Arctic Tern Books, which opened its doors on Rockland’s historic Main Street on November 26, 2021. In some ways, the store’s namesake can be seen as a metaphor for my own, previously nomadic life, but more importantly, it’s a metaphor for discovery and expanding horizons. Two things I believe are essential for humans and intrinsic to bookstores.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO OPEN A BOOKSTORE?
ATB: In 2013, my sister, Amber, was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, and I became her primary caregiver. While caring for her, and then my parents, I became acutely aware of the overwhelming magnitude of, not just physical suffering, but mental and emotional anguish that so many people are experiencing. Right now. This second. Every day. And sometimes it can seem interminable. During those years, I became so grateful for the rare moments and places that felt peaceful and restorative. Places where hope seemed accessible and alive. It was while caring for my sister and seeing so many individuals and families and doctors and nurses who were struggling that I decided I would, some day, create that kind of restorative place for people. A place where very real cares and worries could be left at the door – even if just for a few minutes. A place where people could browse peacefully and find something akin to peace, through things that give them comfort or inspiration or direction. A boutique bookstore seemed like the perfect vehicle for that. Whether one is in need of escapist fiction, soothing poetry, inspiring memoirs, practical advice, tantalizing recipes, or hope, it can all be found in books. And that, to me, is magical.
WAS A BOOKSTORE A MAJOR NEED IN YOUR AREA?
ATB: Midcoast Maine is blessed with a variety of outstanding bookstores that each serve our communities in their own unique way. However, the section of Rockland’s Main Street where Arctic Tern Books is located had been largely vacant for several years. It was the perfect location to create the type of experiential, highly curated, boutique bookstore I envisioned, and people have been responding really well to it.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT OWNING AND WORKING IN AN INDIE BOOKSTORE?
ATB: Connecting with my customers, becoming a valued part of this remarkable community, and seeing people relax and enjoy the space. When people walk through the door and say “It feels so good in here,” or they browse for a while and say “Your books are so well curated,” that makes my heart really happy. That’s when I know I’m achieving what I set out to do.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FUTURE OF INDIE BOOKSTORES WILL LOOK LIKE?
ATB: This may just be the fantasy of a novice bookstore owner, but I believe indie bookstores that are well-attuned to their market and offer an experience beyond a simple retail exchange will thrive well into the future. Two facts the current pandemic have brought into focus are i) just how tightly wired humans are for connection, and ii) how vital books are for fostering a sense of belonging and connection and well being, even in lieu of physical contact. So, I believe bookstores that manage to serve their communities by fulfilling people’s tangible desires for books and other products while also meeting their intangible, or even subconscious, desires for human connection and community will have an enduring and valued place in society.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOSEPH CORRADO PHOTOGRAPHY
Article originally Published in the February / March 2022 Issue: New & Upcoming.