The History Section
We (Beth Leonard and Gary Lawless) started Gulf of Maine Books early in 1979. We had both been working in a local chain bookstore, had learned a little about running a bookstore, and had learned what we did and did not want to do as booksellers. We wanted to open a bookstore emphasizing small press, literary, and regional publishing. We believed in the old Whole Earth Catalog message of the times: books as tools, books as resources, books to build better lives, better community, better worlds. At the time we were interested in bioregional and watershed consciousness, so we named our bookstore for the larger watershed within which we wanted to live and do business - the Gulf of Maine.
We were especially interested in making available titles which we were not seeing in the chain stores - small presses, regional titles, local authors and local ideas. We wanted to have books about and especially by Indigenous authors, women, and what we knew of then as the gay and lesbian book community (this was 1979). We wanted to have a good nature and environmental section, a women's section, good books for kids, and a large poetry wall. A vision like this does not typically spell big success for a bookstore.
We grew slowly, and in 1980 we moved to a larger space. In 1995 we moved again, to our present space. This space gives us the room to carry much of what we would like to feature, as well as having a small make-do space for readings and events. We brought the store out to events like anti-nuclear and anti-clearcutting rallies. We had a book booth for 39 years at the Common Ground Fair, put on by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners. Events helped us to find new customers, and to create our own bookstore character. Because of Common Ground Fair, We still have a large farming and gardening section.
We have been slow to move into the future. We post sporadically to Instagram @gulfofmainebooks23. After years of frustration with the Facebook, we are able to at least access our page - facebook.com/gulfofmainebooks - and keep the information somewhat current. And we finally launched this website in November of 2021 but opted not to include online ordering (although customers can buy from us virtually through bookshop.org) We really enjoy getting to meet and talk with our customers, turning them on to new authors, new ideas, new possibilities. That makes being in the store fun for us and for you, and each day new books and new people come in the front door. There is always something new to read, and we never quite catch up.
We have had many wonderful events over the years, including readings and signings with Nanao Sakaki, Gary Snyder, Terry Tempest and Brooke Williams, Tabitha King, Sister Helen Prejean, Andre Codrescu, Carolyn Chute, Ward Churchill, Lawrence Ferlighetti, Simon Pettet, and many other renowned writers, as well as a long list of local authors.
For 41 years we have had the pleasure of working together in a diverse and dynamic community of books and readers, enjoying the conversations and friendships that have come our way. And the books... all of the books... they keep arriving every day!