The Children’s Book Cellar, a bookstore specializing in children’s and young adult books and a mainstay of Waterville’s downtown business scene for more than 25 years, will receive a grant from thriller writer James Patterson for $5,000.
Patterson has this year been giving out grants of up to $10,000 to small, independent bookstores across the country, as brick-and-mortar booksellers feel the pinch of the popularity of both e-readers and online bookstores, and often find it hard to keep their doors open. Ellen Richmond, owner of the Children’s Book Cellar, applied for a grant on a whim, after Percy’s Burrow in Topsham received a $2,500 grant in February of this year.
“In February he appeared on ‘Good Morning America’ and NPR to announce the first 55 grant winners… My phone started ringing with people to tell me about it and to suggest that I apply,” said Richmond, who has owned the store, located at 52 Main St. in downtown Waterville, since 2002.
In April Richmond received a follow-up email asking her to explain, in 500 words or less, how much she would like and what she would do with the money.
“I said, very honestly, that I would, of course, love to have the maximum, but that I would be thrilled to have any amount,” said Richmond. “On May 21 I received an email telling me that I would be getting a grant in the second round of awards which would be announced in NYC [during Patterson's presentation] at BookExpo on May 28… At the end of his presentation, the list of winners was shown on a screen. There were 43 stores listed and a total of $268,000 in grants. Quite a thrill to see Children’s Book Cellar on that list.”
With the grant money, Richmond plans to first and foremost put up much-needed new signage on the front of her building. With whatever’s left, she hopes to refinish the floors, refurbish and repaint the tin ceilings, do more outreach to local schools and libraries and offer a community read project. Bigger dreams include starting a Central Maine Book Festival, installing rolling shelving to make room for events at the shop, and installing an updated point of sale system.
“I’m still convinced that the whole process is as much luck as anything else,” said Richmond. “I know that I am no more needy or worthy any other bookstores around.”