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After Sandy, Bank Square Books preparing to turn new page

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published November 14. 2012 4:00AM   Updated November 14. 2012 3:19PM

Mystic - More than two weeks without the sale of a single book might have signaled the end for an independent bookstore of a different ilk.

Bank Square Books in Mystic, however, plans to emerge from the disruption of Hurricane Sandy with not only a bright outlook but a newly refurbished shop.

Co-owners Annie Philbrick and Patience Banister have fingers crossed for a Friday evening opening and joined staff at the shop Tuesday to continue the work needed to make that a reality.

They credit the planned comeback to hard work, helpful landlords and generosity of loyal patrons.

"We have the support of the community," Philbrick said. "It means a lot."

The store's staff members are once again turning to the community for a helping hand as they prepare to bring back the thousands of books removed from the shop for safekeeping in the wake of flooding in downtown Mystic.

"To get us up and running will require a herculean effort to clean the store and get the books in order back on the shelves after figuring out where to put the shelves," Philbrick wrote to followers on the store's Facebook page.

There is an open invite to anyone who wants to bring a rag or mop to the store after 9 a.m. today to clean floors and windows.

The store was forced to haul away its entire inventory when flooding soaked the carpets and portions of the wall with brackish water, leading to concerns about mold and decay. Building owners Wayne and Geri Neff replaced the carpet with tile. Sheetrock was also recently replaced along the bottom edge of the store's interior perimeter.

Philbrick imagines it will be "like putting a puzzle back together," when they put the shelves in place and start unpacking books from storage bins. Along with the several hundred thousand books placed in storage, she said she has 141 boxes of new books in her garage she picked up at UPS. Other new arrivals were put on hold.

To make up for the loss of revenue, Philbrick said they are counting on a healthy holiday shopping season coupled with a settlement from interruption of business insurance.

When the shop does reopen, Philbrick said they will be introducing patrons to a line of Kobo e-readers, thanks to a new partnership between Kobo and the American Booksellers Association. Bank Square will carry e-Books from Kobo's catalog along with the readers and accessories. Those are also, for the time being, in storage.

Friday evening, the store will host a talk with Waterford third grade teacher and writer Ann Leal, the author of middle-grade novels "Also Known As Harper" and "A Finders-Keepers Place."

Leal contributed an essay to the new anthology called, "My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read and Shop."

"When you go in you feel welcome. You get the feeling they care that you're there and they care about what they're selling," Leal said of Bank Square. "They personalize your trip there. I always go right for the staff picks."

Leal plans to help in the cleanup this week, giving back to the store that embraced her as an author after the publication of her first book.

g.smith@theday.com

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