During my visit to Cambridge, NY, I had a chance to visit Battenkill Books, a great independent bookstore right on Main Street. And there I chatted for quite a while with Connie Brooks, the owner, and Kate Reid, who was handling a large sale.
I asked my standard question and Connie and Kate discussed and answered.
How would you describe Cambridge?
Kate: It’s a place with big ideas and creative energy, surrounded by beautiful agricultural land. There’s a community theater and education program, so there’s lots of arts and an educated population, along with diversity.
Connie: There’s diversity in education level, for example. And it’s not a homogeneous community as far as politics. It’s diverse in that sense.
If I had to describe Cambridge, I would say: A very special and unique upstate New York village, because we are a village–it’s important to point out not everybody’s a village, but we are–and very community oriented. I think Cambridge is perfect, but I’m so biased.
Me: Are you both from here?
Both: No, no. We’re not.
Kate: I grew up in New York City.
Connie: And I grew up in Massachusetts. Not terribly far.
When I first moved here, I thought, “I have landed in a Norman Rockwell-esque town.” There’s a Christmas parade and there are all these trappings of, I don’t know, this image of what a village used to be, but it’s real here. It’s all really real. Gosh, it’s beautiful.
Cambridge is really community oriented. I think that’s why a bookstore can survive in such a small town. We have a very supportive community. And, like Kate said, very arts oriented. It’s amazing how many shows you can go to, how many artists live here. I think that’s something that continues to surprise newcomers.
At roughly this point a customer joined the conversation. She noted that she lives in Greenwich (pronounced Green-witch) and comes to Cambridge for the bookstore. She bought a nice pile of books to make it worth the trip.
Then followed a little further chatter about how lucky the town is to have had a bookstore continuously while so many other towns (including Cambridge, MA) have lost them. Connie told me, “We took over the existing bookstore, so there’s been a bookstore here for 40 years. I’ve owned it 10 years. A decade of the many decades.”
And that, more or less, was our conversation. Except for a digression while Kate took a call and I was challenged to consider the question offered by Connie’s young son: How many people in the world are sneezing at any one time? Now, whenever I sneeze, I think of him and his question.
Then I was off, glad to have met Connie and Kate, two relative newcomers who are meeting the book needs of the area.