BRUNSWICK — A local couple has been sharing their love of books with the community for 40 years, almost as long as they’ve been sharing their love for each other.
Gary Lawless and Beth Leonard have been together for close to 43 years and opened Gulf of Maine Books in late February 1979.
The couple met at Bookland in the 1970s. Lawless said he first worked at Bookland in Lewiston and also worked at the location in Brunswick, where he met his future wife; Leonard visited the store as a customer when she came home from college.
Leonard would look at books that Lawless was interested in, too.
“When you see what books people are interested in, you can start conversations, and begin friendships that last a long time,” Lawless said. “Even a more than 40-year marriage.”
The couple’s independent bookstore, nestled downtown at 134 Maine St., will celebrate its 40th year in business with a party on Saturday, Feb. 23.
“If you’re smart, you grow at a smaller rate year after year and you’re supported by your community, you can do OK and we certainly have,” Lawless said.
After four decades, the couple said they have no plans to retire “anytime soon.”
“We want to keep giving our customers a reason to celebrate with us, and some of them have been shopping here since we opened,” Leonard said.
To celebrate “leaving their 30s,” as Leonard said, everything in the store will be 30 percent off from Feb. 21 through Feb. 23.
Additionally, there will be cake, refreshments, and food at 3 p.m. Feb 23.
A poetry reading begins at 4 p.m., when seven poets from Brunswick featured in “Balancing Act 2,” an anthology of poems by 50 Maine women, will participate in a read-aloud at the bookstore.
The original “Balancing Act” was published 40 years ago, when Lawless and Leonard opened Gulf of Maine Books. The first installment of the anthology features poems penned by 10 Maine women, including Gov. Janet Mills.
The second-coming of the book and the collection of poems in “Balancing Act 2” is comprised of poetry authored by women of all ages. Rachelle Ouellette, a senior at Morse High School in Bath, is the youngest poet in the anthology.
Anna Turner, a Brunswick native, has three poems in the second installment of the anthology. She visited the bookstore last Saturday. In fact, Turner took a poetry class taught by Leonard while she was in junior high school.
“I hope readers get the sense of the female voice and what it is like to be a woman today and in Maine,” Turner said.
Leonard said the poetry readings bring a lot of foot traffic to the bookstore and sometimes are a “standing-room-only” event in the modestly quaint building.
“The Brunswick community has been amazing to us and has supported us the whole way,” Leonard said.
Famous authors have frequented the store, too.
Leonard said Tabitha King, who is Stephen King’s wife and an author in her own right, has visited the store. She didn’t do a live reading, though.
“This place isn’t big enough,” Leonard said with a smile.
The nationwide decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores hasn’t had a negative impact on Brunswick’s only independent bookstore.
“If anything, it’s helped us because there aren’t many bookstores around anymore like before when there were multiple in town at one point and now we are the only one,” Lawless said.
“Customers come in all the time saying that they haven’t been able to find a certain book anywhere they’ve looked, even on Amazon,” Lawless said. “If we order something in the morning it’ll be here the next afternoon.”
“A drone can’t even get a book here that quickly,” he joked.
Gulf of Maine Books co-owner Gary Lawless, left, helps Jytte Monke, who has been a customer of the store for many of its 40 years in Brunswick.
Gulf of Maine Books at 134 Maine St. in downtown Brunswick will celebrate its 40th year of business on Feb. 23.