New source for used books opens in Northampton

  • Tim Barry prices books in his store, Tim's Used Books, on King Street in Northampton last month. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Used books looking for new owners in Tim’s Used Books on King Street in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tim Barry prices books in his store, Tim's Used Books, on King Street in Northampt on Jan. 31, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tim Barry prices books in his store, Tim's Used Books, on King Street in Northampton on Jan. 31, 2018. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Sunday, February 11, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Used bookstores have always fascinated Tim Barry. For him, a hole-in-the-wall shop, the scent of old bindings and shelves of forgotten gems are irresistible.

Surrounded by books while growing up in Framingham, Barry, 60, was an avid reader, but not much of a book collector.

Until, that is, his brother-in-law, a builder, came to him with a vacant spot in Bourne that could be rented out for cheap. Barry, then in his late twenties, took the opportunity and ran with it.

“My two first bookstores were colossal flops. I didn’t make any money,” joked Barry.

He kept trying. After owning and running seven bookshops, as well as working as a freelance writer, Barry found success in “Tim’s Used Books,” a store he’s owned and operated in Provincetown for over 20 years. Now, he’s ready to expand his operation by opening another store.

“Tim’s Used Books” opened at 90 King St. in Northampton this month.

“I had always looked at Northampton for a place, since a lot of my customers in Provincetown had been from this area, but I never found a spot that made sense,” said Barry. “And then I found this when I was driving up here back in December,” he said, speaking of his new store’s location.

Since moving in on Jan. 1, Barry’s been hard at work setting up the store. Shelves line the walls, filled with used books of different genres and authors, from literature to science fiction to self-help.

The building’s cozy wood interior, low-key location off Main Street and overall rustic feel piqued Barry’s interest. Paired with Northampton’s thriving culture, the vacant space felt like the perfect place to open up another used bookshop. “I wanted a more intimate space,” said Barry.

The store has a small seating area just inside the door, with a wooden rocking chair in the corner along with a green corduroy couch and ottoman, side table and lamp. Hung from the walls are vibrant paintings by Magnus Johnstone, an artist and friend of Barry’s who died in 2013.

Potential customers have been showing their interest in the short amount of time Barry has spent getting the store ready. More than once, he’s answered the door to taps on his window from passing locals asking if they could donate some of their books to help add to the collection.

“No one has ever been as kind and generous to me as they have in Northampton,” Barry said. “It’s different than other places.”

Donations, though, aren’t needed. The bookstore will pay for unwanted books. Customers can either take cash or a higher trade in credit at the shop, which will sell books at a fraction of their price when new. This system, Barry hopes, will not only constantly refresh his bookshelves, but also create a space where people can come to share beloved books with others.

“It’s not like any other kind of store. People want to have conversations. That’s one of the great things I’ve discovered about this,” said Barry. “It’s not like a store where you go in, you buy something, there’s a slot, you push some money in and you leave. It’s a real, organic, kind of give and take experience which feels good to me.”

A hub of the Five College area, Northampton is home to a variety of independently owned bookstores. But Barry isn’t worried about saturating the used-book market. Instead, he sees an opportunity to add his own distinct take to the bookstore scene.

“I hope that I’m kind of welcomed into the fraternity of used booksellers in the Pioneer Valley,” he said. “It’s critical mass. If people are going to an area for a specific purpose, then there’s room for it. I envision a lot of collegial interchange between the other bookshops.”

The official grand opening of Tim’s Used Books is planned for Feb. 16, but the store is open now. After it formally opens, Barry said, he’s hoping to have poetry readings at the store.

The building that houses Barry’s new book store has a history of its own. The property, owned by Norma Farrick, has stood since 1929 when Farrick’s grandfather started a potato chip shop.

Farrick and her husband, Robert, eventually ended up starting their own candy company in the building before moving their business to Bennington, Vermont, in 1979.

Reached in Sun City Center, Florida, where she now lives, Farrick said she’s excited to see a new store in the building.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what Tim has done,” said Farrick. “You can survive if you give the people what they want at fair prices, and he seems to think he can make a go at it. I hope he does well.”

Barry plans to split his time between his two stores. Eventually, he hopes to hire a full-time employee at his Northampton store to help him keep up.

Last Wednesday, with empty boxes scattered around the register, Barry put the finishing touches on his new endeavor, shelving the last few books in his fiction section.

“People who love books have a warm, fuzzy feeling for bookshops,” said Barry. “I hope they do love this place.”