Bookends bookstore in Florence up for sale; open house set for this week for customers and prospective buyers


Staff Writer

Published: 10-14-2022 6:09 PM

FLORENCE — Eighteen years after fulfilling “a lifelong dream” by buying the used bookstore Bookends in Florence Center, Grey Angell is looking to hand over the keys to another bibliophile, and he’s opening the doors this weekend for the first time in more than two years to show off the space.

Angell is selling the business at 80 Maple St., in the historic Parsons Block, and everything in it — including 30,000 books — for $35,000 and he’s willing to train the new owner on every aspect of running a bookstore at no additional cost.

“It’s just a really nice environment, to be surrounded by books and the people that come in that like books, usually really nice people,” Angell said of his experience at Bookends. “You can have kind of a mellow, quaint shop rather than a big box store. It’s a different feel. It’s a really good quality of life (and) it’s nice to be your own boss.”

For this weekend only, the store will officially open for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. From noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, customers and prospective buyers are invited to an open house that doubles as a sale on books, music and movies.

“All the books that were here before the pandemic are still here,” Angell said, adding that the store “hasn’t been falling down or anything” during the hiatus and he expects a significant turnout.

Ed Shanahan, a former Gazette editor, founded Bookends in 1990 at a spot on Main Street that is now Collective Copies. He hired Angell, who saw the job posting in the newspaper’s classified ads, in 1998.

“In the beginning, I guess it was slow enough that he would play chess with friends who came by,” Angell said. “It got to be pretty big. … Pretty soon after I started, we moved over here and I was involved in setting up the store, which was a big deal. Took a lot of work to move a bookstore.”

Shanahan said he solicited the help of the Northampton High School football team to carry heavy boxes on a snowy day, then made a donation to the program. Angell took it upon himself to build several new bookshelves, still in use, to save Shanahan money on carpentry costs.

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“It came at the right time for me,” Shanahan said of his career change. “I had done my newspapering and it gave me an opportunity to do something else, to meet other people, learn about the book trade” and even make house calls to assess books he may have wanted to buy.

He said bookstores of all kinds began to go under as big box stores and online shopping became dominant over brick-and-mortar retail, but he always loved the “exchange of energy” that took place in his shop. For his part, Angell said a used bookstore attracts different customers than a major chain and he doesn’t see Barnes & Noble as a threat.

“I always felt that editing a bookstore is like editing a newspaper,” Shanahan said. “You pick the things you like, and you stock the books you think people should be reading, and you have editorial oversight” of the store.

Angell, he said, “worked there long enough that he was going to do things his way, and he did, and he’s done a good job.”

Angell bought Bookends in 2004 and now has owned it longer than Shanahan did. He offers an online database of about 7,000 books for sale, which he considers “some of the nicer books in the store,” but it also has been on hold.

When the pandemic hit and Bookends was forced to close along with businesses nationwide, Angell said he took the opportunity to spend several months in Salt Lake City, Utah. The store has not officially reopened since, but on occasions when he stops in to complete small tasks or check the mail, people often knock on the door and he does let them shop.

“I get a lot of foot traffic,” he said. “I was getting notes tucked through the door: ‘Please! When are you going to reopen?’”

During an interview, a customer walked into the store and silently browsed for several minutes before leaving.

Shanahan said owning the store was worth the effort and it’s ideal for certain buyers.

“It would be a good shop for a young person who has an affection, passion, for books, and wants to get … a good start with the collection that’s there,” he said. “It’s a very attractive possibility, but it takes the right person.”

Asked about his plans after the sale, Angell said the future is wide open, and he may end up staying in Northampton.

“I don’t know what’s next,” he said. “When I was younger, I thought I had to have it figured out, what was the next step. Now I’m just going to be — finish this step, then find out what the next step is.”

Those interested in contacting Angell can email him at

Brian Steele can be reached at]]>