BATH — When she opens her bookstore next month on Front Street, Julie Shea wants her customers to feel free to share their stories.
Shea’s own story of how she and her husband, Mike, came to own a bookstore may be worth sharing, too.
The Mustard Seed Bookstore will open Feb. 16 at 74 Front St., a space that was occupied by the Intown Shop. Besides books, Mustard Seed will sell music, wrapping paper, stationery, greeting cards and gifts, and serve tea and baked goods made in Bath by Starlight Cafe.
The store’s opening is a classic “one door closes, another door opens” tale.
Shea, who moved with her husband to Georgetown three years ago from upstate New York, was a reading specialist at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School in Brunswick when she met Connie Buston, who owns the Bath Book Shop at 96 Front St.
“I’ve always loved books, and wanted to do a story hour,” Shea said Jan. 2. “And I just went in to ask if (Buston) might consider me volunteering to do a story hour.”
Shea said she told Buston of her dream to run a bookstore, and asked her to let Shea know if she ever decided to sell hers. Buston meanwhile was looking to have some time off to think about her “next adventure,” Shea said, and the two women started talking about aligning their dreams.
The Bath Book Shop, meanwhile, announced two weeks ago that it would close at the end of this month.
“(It has) been a blessing to have been part of the downtown Bath,” Buston posted on Facebook. “… I’m so glad there will still be a bookshop, and I’m looking forward to some days off.”
While she initially thought about taking over Buston’s space, she and her husband opted for the larger storefront where the Intown Shop operated until last fall.
“The bigger space allows us to have the tea shop, but we’ll still be buying (Buston’s) fixtures and remaining inventory,” Shea said.
Jane Morse of Sagadahock Real Estate Association, which owns the building the Bath Book Shop has occupied, said Wednesday that she expects a new tenant to be in the space later this winter, but that it is too early to say who that will be.
Mustard Seed derives its name from a parable in the Bible, which notes that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can do impossible things,” Shea paraphrased.
“For me, it felt as if going from an educational background into a business world background, it would be impossible without a small seed of faith,” she said.
Shea’s husband will be involved in the store, as will the couple’s friends, Mark and Susan Shipsey. They had been interested in helping someone open a bookstore, and have helped with organizing and designing the store and its website, developing the tea shop, and handling public relations, Shea said.
Between them and Buston, “it’s synergy, how all of these players are coming together,” she added.
Shea said she hopes Mustard Seed will be a destination, a meeting place where people can buy items and visit with friends over a cup of tea and bite to eat. And to share their own stories.
“People will be coming into the store and seeing thousands of titles of books, but we also believe that every single person in life has a story to tell,” Shea said. “… We want to be able to be the place where that can happen.”
The Mustard Seed Bookstore is scheduled to open Feb. 16 at 74 Front St. in Bath. Co-owner Julia Shea, right, is shown Wednesday with store associate Susan Shipleigh.