By Deb Everts
McGee’s Books & Curiosities will soon open its doors in downtown Ellicottville, offering a new twist on bookstore merchandise.
Located at 11 Washington St., between Dina’s and the former M&T Bank building, the store’s main focus will be on gently used books, vinyl records and turntables.
Owner Scotty McGee and his fiancée, Rachel Northrup, are both avid readers and they’d like to share their passion with the community. They’ve been working hard all summer and into the fall refurbishing the old brick walls and tin ceiling, installing and varnishing new wood floors and adding a fresh coat of green paint to the exterior.
Northrup is well-known in Ellicottville where she grew up. She owns The Purple Doorknob, a sock shop on Monroe Street. The couple met in Maine in 2016 while traveling. When the relationship got serious, McGee moved from Houston to Ellicottville to be with Northrup and made it his home as well. Now, they are a family and they have a son, Easton, who will turn three years old in December.
McGee said his previous business partner bought him out of his marketing business where they taught business, marketing and consulting courses online. With that behind him, it opened up possibilities for his new business venture.
“When I moved from Houston to Ellicottville, I had a 400-square foot room that was basically surrounded with books. I’ve always been a big reader, and I’d never thought about selling them until I moved here.”
What happened next got the ball rolling on McGee’s book business. He said Northrup was going through a minimalist phase and started getting rid of everything in the house, so he decided to sell their books online before they started disappearing, too.
“I was really surprised at how fast they sold and how much they sold for. That’s what got me into it,” he said. “It got me curious, so I started looking for sources and different places where I could find other books.”
Before this happened, McGee and Northrup talked about what type of store they might open in Ellicottville. With plenty of dining and entertainment places around, they thought about what else they could bring to expand on what’s already in town to make Ellicottville an even more unique place. With the books doing well online, they thought it would be great to have a bookstore, so they started looking into the idea.
In the beginning, they were going to try selling books in a small section of the basement of the Purple Doorknob, but then the storefront at 11 Washington St. became available. McGee said it appealed to them because it had a great location and Rachel’s family, the Northrups, have a history in the building.
“Rachel’s dad, John Northrup, owns the building. Her grandfather, Wilbur Northrup [Edna Northrup’s late husband] had his dentist practice above the former M&T Bank next door, and his actual office was upstairs above the bookstore,” he said. “This store space was a millinery (hat store) owned by her great-uncle.”
AS McGEE GOT into books, he also learned about vinyl records. He was surprised at what he discovered about a year ago at a Barnes & Noble bookstore.
“It had been a while since I’d been in a big brand name bookstore. Half the store was vinyl records by new artists, as well as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift,” he said. “I was shocked. I mean, vinyl has made a huge comeback.”
According to Billboard, the Nielsen Music 2017 U.S. Music Year-End Report states that over 14 million vinyl records were sold in the United States alone that year — the highest level since 1991.
“People say music sounds better on vinyl because there is less loss of quality,” he said. “Vinyl is very popular right now and there are serious collectors. Lots of people have used vinyl records that they no longer need and want.”
As far as the curiosities go, McGee said they have a lot of ideas about what they want to bring into the store in the future. They’ve discussed DVDs and new books, but people have also suggested other things including stationery, candles and coffee. He said many of the ideas are great, but they’ll have to bring those in later on and see what works.
“We’ve talked about a lot of different ideas and adding ‘Curiosities’ to the store name will allow us some freedom to play with some of those things,” he said. “We’ll probably carry a few socks, but only those related to books and reading. We also plan to bring in some apparel, but that would also be related to literary.”
One of his goals is to be able to donate one book for every book he sells, so he’s looking for organizations that might be interested. He’d also like to connect with local organizations and help as much as he can with people that need books.
McGee said he’s trying to get his doors open by Ellicottville’s Fall Fest. He’s planning a grand opening celebration for Nov. 2 when everybody will get a free book of their choice. He hopes the store will draw people who love to read and share their opinions on the books they’ve been reading.
As long as people can carry the books in, McGee will accept donations of gently used books. He said they can be older books, but they need to be intact and in good condition with no mold.
Until his shop opens at 11 Washington St., people may drop books off at the Purple Doorknob at 9 Monroe St. If anyone has more than two boxes of books, they can call 687-8238 and arrange for someone to pick them up.
To find out more about McGee’s Books & Curiosities, call 687-8238 or visit the store’s Facebook page that is currently being developed.