Winston Smith Books: A new peddler of pages comes to town
Insurance agent Glen Sewell turned 50 and decided it was time to start living his dream of being surrounded by books and book lovers. Around the same time, the Loomis resident saw that Winston Smith Books on Lincoln Way was for sale. Sewell jumped at the chance to make this two-story downtown treasure filled with more than 40,000 books his own, but the previous owner was wary.
"All of the calls he'd received were from people who wanted to liquidate the books and close the store," Sewell said.
When Sewell -- who said he's loved books since he was a kid -- convinced the previous owner that the bookstore would remain open, they were able to negotiate.
They closed on the sale last week.
"Bookstores are not dead," Sewell said emphatically. "There are a lot of people who prefer books to technology. I'm one of them."
In fact, Winston Smith Books has turned a small profit over the years, but Sewell admits he wouldn't have taken over a bookstore -- particularly a used bookstore -- if it were his only source of income.
The mild-mannered businessman and his wife, Melanie, are brainstorming ways to bring in more customers. A few of these ideas include book signings, poetry and fiction readings, and inviting book clubs for discussion. Sewelll is quick to point out that no changes have been decided yet, especially as they store has only one employee.
Still, there's a steady, if small, stream of customers trickling into the shop, browsing its many sections; fiction, children's books, history, science, trains and psychology, to name a few.
There's a bit of something for everyone, Sewell said, as he recalls a conversation he had recently with a visiting self-proclaimed non-reader.
"He came in with his girlfriend and said he doesn't like to read," Sewell recalled. "I asked, 'what do you like to do?' and he said he was a gamer."
Sewell laughed good-naturedly, pointed out that this "non-reader's" favorite video game is based on a book, and showed him the science fiction section.
"They'll be back again," Sewell said, confidently.
While Sewell doesn't offer new books, he makes up for it by offering quality books, he said, and he is able to order a book -- if he doesn't have it in stock -- for those who are willing to wait a few days.
His favorite read? "The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary" by Simon Winchester.
"I like to read biographies and non-fiction books about people," he said.
And Tolkien, of course.
Sewell must also be a fan of George Orwell, as he's planning to keep the Winston Smith name, taken after Orwell's "1984" protagonist.
However, Sewell is more hopeful than Orwell was in his novels.
"We're excited about the future here," he said.
Winston Smith Books is located at 933 Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn.
For more information, call 530.823.5940 or visit https://www.winstonsmithbooks.com/home.html