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Blue Plate Books on Valley Avenue in Winchester not only survived the COVID-19 pandemic, owner Pat Saine is expanding the business.

WINCHESTER — Blue Plate Books is expanding.

Pat Saine, who owns the used book shop at 2257 Valley Ave., said the expansion will consist of taking over existing space next to his store on the first floor of the plaza. It will expand the shop’s square footage from about 3,500 square feet to about 5,000 square feet.

“This will allow us to offer a better selection of great books to read,” Saine said. “Right now, we offer 50,000 books to our customers. We hope when this expansion is all through, we’ll be able to stock about 65,000 volumes. Books and reading are alive and well and here to stay.”

Plans include moving and increasing the shop’s history section and spreading out some of the other sections to give them some more “breathing room,” he said.

Last October, Saine’s perseverance through the COVID-19 pandemic was used as an example during a Winchester Area Society for Human Resource Management Small Business Day virtual event.

Saine detailed the store’s early struggles and how an “even keel” mindset helped push through the pandemic.

“The book store was a dream fulfilled, and I was afraid that I would have to shutter it,” Saine told other regional business owners gathered on Zoom for the event last fall. “There were sleepless nights as the virus drama unfolded as I waited on official word on whether I’d be required to close my retail business.”

Saine has owned the store for about 13 years.

During the first week of the pandemic, Saine recalled that he once had a day that consisted of just one $8.42 sale. Other days, he said, folks paid for their books with loose change. “Clearly they’d cleaned out their piggy banks,” he said.

Saine said he struggled to pay the rent for his shop while dipping into cash reserves, and a few employees said they didn’t want to leave their house over COVID-19 fears.

This expansion, though, offers Saine a chance to look forward instead of looking back.

“What happened with COVID was we kept our customers feeling safe and we kept an even keel. So, when an opportunity was knocking here and change was available, we were ready to jump on that change,” he said. “When I started in 2008, I was in 1,200 square feet at a small, little bookstore, a second career that I thought was going to be a great way to spend my time. But there’s just more demand for good books out there than people think. So, we got bigger and bigger, and now we’re getting bigger again.”

As the pandemic lingers, Saine said he’s seen many area residents turn to books as their preferred form of entertainment.

“There’s a lot of people out there who enjoy books. COVID-19 reminded them how much they enjoyed books,” he said. “I think they got tired of television and wanted something else.”

Saine said his favorite part of the job continues to be “getting people excited about books.”

He said he hopes to have all the renovations done in June or July, with no closures in between.

“Plans always change, but we’re only closed three days a year — Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Otherwise, we’re open and in the store working,” he said. “So we plan to be open and in the store working throughout this expansion, folding it into the day’s work.

Blue Plate Books will be be celebrating Earth Day on Thursday with a sale.

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com

(1) comment

Marymac

Congratulations on expanding! Blue Plate is a wonderful place, owned by wonderful people!

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