The owners of Books & Books in Westhampton Beach will put the finishing touches on another chapter of their lives when they close the doors to their popular bookstore for good this weekend.
Six years after opening the small chain store on Main Street, the husband-and-wife team of Jack McKeown and Denise Berthiaume have decided to retire and now plan to split their time between their home in Remsenburg and a new townhouse in Williamsburg, Virginia, where Ms. Berthiaume’s family lives.
In a joint statement issued this week, the owners thanked the greater Westhampton Beach community for its support over the past six and a half years, noting that they were happy to do their part in the resurgence of small, independently run bookstores.
“For a variety of personal reasons, including the desire to retire to other pursuits, to travel more extensively, and to spend time with extended family in Virginia, Jack and Denise felt the time was right to make the change,” the statement reads.
The couple opened the Main Street store on July 1, 2010, stating at the time that they hoped to find the same success that other smaller and independently operated bookstores have found while larger chain stores—like Borders and Barnes & Noble—were closing outlets at a rapid pace. Prior to opening shop in the village, Mr. McKeown was employed as a publisher for Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins publishers, and a retired CEO of Perseus Books Group. Ms. Berthiaume still owns her own advertising agency, Verso Advertising in New York City, though she no longer oversees the day-to-day activities.
The 2,000-square-foot Westhampton Beach store is part of a small chain of bookstores, most of which are in Florida, sharing a common name and trade services—though the couple always retained full ownership of the Main Street shop. The chain also boasts stores in Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Bal Harbour, all in southern Florida, and affiliate shops in Grand Cayman, Key West and at Miami International Airport.
Despite its somewhat brief tenure in the village, Books & Books had a substantial following and an uncanny ability to attract interesting authors and special guests. Topping that list was its hosting of a book signing featuring former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The intimate shop also welcomed the likes of comedian David Sedaris and “Sex & the City” writer Candace Bushnell.
The bookstore’s imminent closure is slowing sinking in with customers.
“It was nice having a physical bookstore in Westhampton Beach,” said 18-year-old Maria Pamboris of Center Moriches, who attended Westhampton Beach High School and has been visiting Books & Books since she was a child. “Everything is online nowadays.”
Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Maria Moore said she is sad to see the bookstore go, adding that she has shopped there several times over the years. “It’s an attractive store with something for everyone,” she said. “I’m disappointed to see them leave.”
In the statement, Mr. McKeown shared that he and his wife are happy to be retiring, explaining that he is working on a book project that he declined to share details about, and that they intend to visit Iceland, the Amazon, and Serengeti, which spans from northern Tanzania to southwestern Kenya in Africa. Their more immediate plans including spending the coming winter in Williamsburg, near Ms. Berthiaume’s parents.
Mr. McKeown and Ms. Berthiaume still intend to spend their summers in Remsenburg, however.
Their store’s official last day will be this coming Saturday—with shoppers enjoying 40-percent discounts.
“Jack and Denise are proud to have participated in the indie bookstore resurgence that began several years ago, and has proceeded apace in this decade, resulting in the opening or expansion of hundreds of independent bookstores nationwide,” states the same release. “The decline of e-book sales and the rebound in print bode well for the future of independent bookstore retail, and the owners expect that like-minded individuals will step forward at some point to bring a new bookstore to the Westhampton community.”