Yesterday’s Muse Books, “Sellers of fine books in all categories” as owner Jonathan Smalter’s email signature reads, is celebrating a huge milestone this weekend. It’s been 10 years since they opened at 32 W. Main St. in the Village and to mark the anniversary they are holding a very special open house event this Saturday December 15th, from 10am to 6pm. There will be refreshments, a raffle, and all items priced $10 or less will be Buy-One-Get-One-Free. You can sign up for reminders and more details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1973850496069432/
We had a chance to ask Jonathan some questions about his business, the Village, favorite memories and future plans. You can find some highlights below:
We opened on December 8, 2008, the day of the White Christmas celebration and parade. Back then there was no Game Craze, Barry’s, Heart to Heart Bridal, Village Bakery, Garage Sale Store, or Brimont Bistro (I’m almost definitely missing a few, too).
I like our location because parking is readily available behind the shop, and we have two entrances, one facing the street, and one facing the side, with a ramp making the building handicap accessible (which also means we can move carts in and out). We have a lot of people bringing boxes of books to trade or sell, and this just wouldn’t be possible if we were in the middle of a long row of shops.
We always look forward to the village-wide events. White Christmas and the Trick-or-Treat Trail are our favorites. The former is special, of course, because it also marks our store anniversary. For the latter, my wife and I have developed somewhat of a reputation for choosing interesting costumes. It’s a good day to remember to take ourselves a little less seriously. Webster Jazz Fest is another good one: the stage is set up directly in front of our shop. While this event does not tend to drive as much traffic to the shop as other village events, it is a favorite of mine because it feels like the whole village gets together and decides to have a party in the middle of the street.
I have had some very odd things. Some are designed to be that way (e.g., The Mustache Try-On Book, which consisted entirely of different style mustaches one could cut out to ‘try on’); others are just obscure enough to seem a little ridiculous (e.g., an 1899 map showing the locations of all New York State butter and cheese factories). In terms of favorite items, though, there are a few that come to mind: a first American edition of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (sold earlier this year); a two-volume history of New England that belonged to four generations of Harriet Beecher-Stowe’s family (still for sale); an early printing of the first collection of American recipes, notable as the first cookbook to include a recipe for pumpkin pie (sold to another dealer 8 years ago).
All of our stock is available to view on our website (www.yesterdaysmuse.com), all divided by category, with images of the exact copy we are selling. Since this is not the norm for bookstores, people tend to assume it is not the case.
We also have a trade-in program for repeat customers: if they purchase a book here, and trade it in later, they automatically receive half the original price in store credit. We offer special order services as well, so even if we don’t have it, if it is out there for sale somewhere we can find it. Since we are book experts, we will probably track down a cheaper copy, or a better copy (or both!), than you are likely to find yourself.
My main initiatives are to seek out and offer for sale the best books I can find, to continue developing my reputation as a knowledgeable dealer, and to keep learning. As I’m able to, I try to do little projects to improve the building (e.g., a couple years ago I repainted the facade, and this year I replaced the canvas on all the awnings). I am currently the head organizer of the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair, an annual event that for the last few years has taken place at the Main Street Armory. I took over this responsibility from Franlee Frank of Greenwood Books, and I hope to continue its tradition as one of the longest continuously running regional book fairs in the country (it’s been nearly 50 years since the first one!). I would like to expand my scope in terms of exhibiting at other fairs, as well. The big fairs in New York City, Boston, and California, even in this age of internet commerce, remain the most important and lucrative events in the book trade, provided one brings the right stock.