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I am a senior English/Journalism major from Hill, New Hampshire. You can follow me on Twitter @katevgardner

Written by Katie Gardner / November 26, 2013

A Treasure Hunt in Time

It was a rainy Friday afternoon at Brattle Book Shop in Boston and owner Ken Gloss feared that the shop would see less business than usual. The carts selling books for $1 and $3, which draw a lot of customers in, had to be pulled inside off the street in order to stay dry. Despite the bad weather, the shop, which first opened in 1825, was still bringing in business. With three floors and around 100,000 books in stock that day, the store served as a cozy retreat from the storm. Numerous customers came pouring in, including first timers just passing by, longtime regulars, and some looking to rediscover a part of their past.

The dollar book carts were placed randomly around the first floor of the shop to keep safe from the rain. These prices were much different from those of the antique books on the third floor which sell for hundreds, and even thousands, of dollars. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Gabriel Valjan of Malden, MA, who has been coming to Brattle since the late eighties, is one customer who has taken advantage of the dollar book cart for cheap finds. When he first started visiting the shop right out of college, his budget was tight and the book cart made affording books easier. Years later though, he is now able to expand his search.

“Sometimes I get to find things that are out of print,” Valjan said.

Gabriel Valjan looks through books about the Kennedy’s on the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Brandon Hagen, 18, of Boston became a fan of the shop at a much younger age. He said that his first visit to the shop was when he was around five years old and that since then, he has been back around ten to 15 times. He enjoys being able to find things that relate to his hobbies.

“I buy books and old National Geographic magazines to collage with,” Hagen said.

Brandon Hagen, a long time customer of Brattle, browses through books on the second floor. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Heather Caswell also came to Brattle for the first time when she was a child. Now a resident of Kansas though, she hadn’t been back since. While in the city for a conference, she knew that she had to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the place again.

Heather Caswell looks through one of Brattle’s many shelves for the first time as an adult. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Caswell wasn’t the only customer from out of state who was just visiting the shop while passing through.

Tom Dupin of Silver Springs, MD sits down to read and enjoy some downtime while his band is in the city to perform a show. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Natalie Ryabchikova, 31, of Pittsburgh, PA isn’t a regular of Brattle either. She’s been here before though – 12 years ago. While in the area visiting her friend Olga Saratova, 28, of Lowell, MA, Ryabchikova insisted that they make the trip to the shop.

“I love this place so much,” Ryabchikova said. “I’ve been meaning to come back.”

Saratova (left) and Ryabchikova explore the wide variety of books that Brattle has to offer, with newer books being in front of them and antiques at the end of the aisle. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Gloss, who inherited the ownership of the shop from his father in 1973, enjoys this variety and said that the store brings in an average of five hundred to one thousand books a day.

“What people don’t realize about that is the tremendous amount of physical work that you have to do for it,” Gloss said, “along with having to know what the books are and what they’re worth. Whether they’re just used second-hand books that go on our outside tables that are a few dollars or very rare, very valuable, very expensive things that collectors come from all over the world to buy.”

A stack of around three to four thousand books, both older and newer, sit stacked up in Brattle’s basement. They are waiting to either be shipped out or organized and priced to be put in the store. Worker Zac Marconi said that the stack is constantly changing due to the amount of books received each day. Marconi described the sound of the stack crashing down, which isn’t a rare occurrence, as an avalanche. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

On the floors above this massive pile though, the books are organized neatly in sections such as war, children’s, cooking, and many more. Other books are just organized alphabetically by author’s last name, which is where Sam Tan, who lives north of Boston, was looking for a read.

Sam Tan said he comes to Brattle because it’s a good place to browse. Here he browses through shelves on the first floor. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

Other customers, such as Taylor Davis of Boston, also enjoy the immense browsing possibilities of Brattle. Davis said she has been coming to the shop for quite some time now and that she often looks around for longer than she anticipates.

“I come for one thing and immediately find something else,” Davis said. “I can never leave.”

Taylor Davis checks out after much browsing, despite saying that she never wants to leave the shop. PHOTO/Katie Gardner

“It’s sort of a treasure hunt,” Gloss said. “You never know what you’re gonna see, who you’re gonna meet, the people, the places, the books. And that’s the most fun.”

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