News your connection to The Boston Globe

Literary rescue

READERS: Go buy books at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop on Plympton Street in Cambridge! The one-room store is struggling financially, but open and crammed with some 16,000 poetry books, according to owner Louisa Solano.


"I need as many sales as possible to pay off bills," Solano says bluntly. And book-lovers can understand: It's better to rally the troops to save a beloved store rather than organize a pity party once a storeowner has no other option but to close.

Time seems to have bent around Grolier. Walk in and it could be 2004 or 1964. Customers are surrounded luxuriously by books. The featured photographs of poets are all black and white. The sign hanging outside says "est. 1927," boldly indifferent to being hip, new, or attractive to cell phone-loving teenagers. Hand-written signs promise African-American, British, Irish, Slavic, Chinese, and Australian poetry. The center table holds a load of discounted books, their lower prices a seductive way to attract readers to the work of lesser-known poets. The store hosts a series of readings; the next one, on Feb. 19, features Russian poet Dmitri Prigov.

What's Grolier's future? Stay tuned. Solano says several buyers are interested in the store. Solano also talks of supplementing the store by selling books on the Web -- a good idea that could attract top-dollar buyers. So she's looking for a webmaster who could donate services to rehabilitate the store's ailing website.

"I used to say: `I farm books,' " Solano says, explaining the physical, mental, and emotional labor that she puts into the store.

It's hard to find that kind of passion in stores that sell logo-laden products that come to seem strangely useless in a year or two. In sharp contrast, Solano offers shoppers the more substantive fare that only merchants of metaphor can provide.

Globe Archives
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months