Closing the books: Longtime Portland bookstore shutting its doors

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PORTLAND — A longtime Longfellow Square store specializing in old and rare books is clearing its shelves and closing its doors.

Cunningham Books has been selling rare and out-of-print books from a spacious, storefront at the corner of Pine and State streets since 1991. 

But in September, after nearly 20 years in business, owner Nancy Grayson began offering her nearly 70,000-book collection at a discount in a going-out-of-business sale.

On Monday, the store was filled with customers, all of whom had arms full of books that were on sale for half price.

Michelle Souliere left the store with a tote bag full of books. The 37-year-old said she had been shopping at Cunningham since she was a teenager and has been spending about $60 a week since the sale started.

“I’m going to miss Nancy,” said Souliere, who owns the Green Hand Book Shop at 661 Congress St. “She’s very much an individual – very much one-of-a-kind. She has an amazing knowledge of books and literature.”

In between customers and bites of a sandwich, Grayson on Monday said she wasn’t interested being interviewed.

“I don’t like touchy-feely stories about businesses closing,” she said.

She rejected a suggestion that the recession or the increasing popularity of electronic books helped seal the fate of her business.

“I’m old and I’m tired,” said Grayson, whose long silver hair was pulled back into a ponytail.

Cunningham Books originally opened in 1980 on Congress Street, across from the Roma Cafe. It moved to 188 State St. in 1991 and Grayson bought it in 1993.

Souliere said she is happy that Grayson will now have the time to relax and kick back with a good book during her retirement.

“The perfect irony of owning your own bookstore is you never have time to sit down and read the books,” she said. “I’m very happy for her.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or [email protected] 

Sidebar Elements

Nancy Grayson assists customers Monday at her Longfellow Square store, Cunningham Books, which is going out of business.

Cunningham Books, 188 State St., Portland.