Cape And Islands Bookstore Trail Celebrates Cape's Independent Book Shops

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Business , Local authors

Caitlin Doggart-Bernal, co-owner of Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore and Children’s Annex in Chatham, is a driving force behind the Cape and Islands Bookstore Trail. COURTESY PHOTO

Just in time for the fifth Independent Bookstore Day on April 27, three bookstores in Chatham, one in Harwich Port and two in Orleans have joined the new Cape and Islands Bookstore Trail, a brainchild of Caitlin Doggart-Bernal who, along with her mother Joanne Doggart, owns Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore and Children’s Annex in Chatham.

“It should be a lot of fun for readers who love to seek out indie bookstores,” Doggart-Bernal said in an email interview last week. “I’m excited to see where this leads.”

Twenty-one bookstores across the Cape, including one on Martha’s Vineyard and two on Nantucket, have joined the trail. Along with Where the Sidewalk Ends, local stores include Yellow Umbrella Books and A Great Yarn in Chatham, Reed Books in Harwich Port, Main Street Books and Booksmith/Musicsmith in Orleans. A trail map will be released on April 27.

“It’s a fun way to get people interested and to celebrate independent bookstores,” says Eric Linder, owner of Yellow Umbrella Books. “The Cape has a pretty amazing variety.” Yellow Umbrella sells both new and used books.

The genesis of the idea was a trip Doggart-Bernal, Sara Hines of Eight Cousins Books in Falmouth and Vicky Titcomb of Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich took to a retreat with other New England bookstore owners last month. The three Cape bookstore owners were struck by the enthusiasm for the successful “Vermont Independent Bookstore Passport” project. Participating Vermont bookstores hand out maps of the State of Vermont with the locations of 20 bookstores marked. If readers visit five or more bookstores, they become eligible for prizes. It seemed to Doggart-Bernal, Hines and Titcomb that such a map would be a natural fit for Cape Cod because “it’s a distinct geographical area with a thriving set of unique and charming independent bookstores,” Doggart-Bernal says.

The Cape trail will work in a similar fashion to the Vermont trail, with people who visit five stores earning a commemorative “Cape Cod Bookstore Trail” button. During the summer, the rewards program may expand. Also, “as a way to connect the digital world of selfies to the physical world of bookstores, we have set up social media accounts where readers can upload selfies of themselves visiting stores along the trail,” Doggart-Bernal says.

“It is a festive way to celebrate the value of independent bookstores in our communities,” she adds. “We chose a trail map because it embraces a sense of exploration that is inherent in visiting Cape Cod.”

Visiting multiple independent bookstores makes sense in the way visiting multiple antique stores does because each independent bookstore has its own personality and you will find a different selection of books in each.

A Great Yarn at 894 Main St. is a cleverly-named store which is devoted partly to the sales of “yarns,” as in used books, and partly to the sales of yarn used in knitting.

“People think that the internet and Kindle have killed independent booksellers, but they are totally wrong,” says Ron Weishaar who, with his wife Mary, owns A Great Yarn. “We have become more creative about what we sell, and how we engage with our customers. Just look at Chatham. We have three independent book sellers, each with our own niche, and we are all doing very well.”

Cherry Reid, co-owner of Booksmith/Musicsmith at 136 Cranberry Highway in Orleans, welcomes the Book Store Trail Map for a specific reason. The bookstore moved four years ago, and “people still don’t know where we are,” she says. “People caught on in the beginning—we had signs everywhere.” Yet a man just came in this week and said to Reid, “oh, I thought you closed.” The store’s new location is in the Staples Plaza next to Guapo’s Restaurant.

Reed Books at 537 Route 28, Harwich Port, is on the Book Store Trail. Reed Books specializes in used books. The store is currently “hibernating” and will reopen soon this spring. The Brewster Bookstore at 2648 Main St., Brewster, is also on the trail.

The trail should be an advantage to both bookstore owners and readers.

“Many avid readers and book-lovers appreciate the charm of browsing and touching real, physical books,” Doggart-Bernal says. “They love recommendations from real people, not just algorithms. Walking into a bookstore is a remarkable experience for the soul, and the Cape Cod Independent Bookstore Trail Map is a way to connect book lovers to bookstores.”

Doggart-Bernal hopes that readers will discover stores they don’t already know. “Until now, there has been a lot of reliance on word-of-mouth about special gems of bookstores along Cape Cod, and we hope readers appreciate having a list in one place, to bring ‘bookstore tourism’ to a place with a high concentration of bookstores.

“It opens up a world of possibilities by simply having all of the Cape Cod independent bookstores connected.”