SOUTH PORTLAND — A used book store that gives people with disabilities real-life work experience has opened up a new storefront.
Last week, Bookworks! opened a new store in Building B at 47 Atlantic Place, an office complex off Foden Road between Gorham Road and Western Avenue.
“I love it,” said Cumberland Center resident Timothy Kerr, who was working last Friday. “It’s a lot bigger.”
BookWorks! is part of an employment training program run by STRIVE, a nonprofit group that provides educational and social opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the state.
BookWorks! helps people with disabilities gain experience stocking shelves, running the cash register and interacting with customers.
Special Programming Coordinator Katie Collins said the store allows STRIVE members to build an employment history and it gives them a reference for job applications – two key ingredients for any job-seeker.
“It’s helpful for resumes,” Collins said. “Just to get the base experience, so when they are applying for other jobs, they’ve already had the experience of working under management.”
The program has operated for the last four years out of a 15-by-15-foot room at STRIVE’s headquarters, Collins said, less than a mile up Foden Road next to Fairchild Semicondictor.
Collins said the old space didn’t allow the store to display many of the hundreds of book donations STRIVE receives from individual community members and public libraries in South Portland, Scarborough and Falmouth, which usually donate their leftovers from their annual book sales.
“The community has been really generous to donate all of these books,” Collins said. “Falmouth donated four carloads of books this year.”
When STRIVE decided it wanted a bigger store, Collins said she began contacting local real estate agents about getting a retail location. She said Dead River Properties gave them a vacant office in Atlantic Place for an undetermined period of time.
The new space, open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., will not just give customers a wider selection of books, the prices for which range from 50 cents for children’s books to $1 for paperbacks and $3 for hardcovers. It will also foster a more meaningful program for STRIVE members, who now have a more realistic storefront to run.
While the old store barely allowed for books, let alone people, the Atlantic Place store has three rooms, including a spacious children’s reading room with a television; on Friday it was playing a Harry Potter film.
Although the primary goal of BookWorks! is to give members work experience, Collins said STRIVE also relies on the store to raise between $3,500 and $4,000 a year in support of programming.
All things considered, the opening week of business was good, Collins said.
“We definitely have more business than the other location,” she said. “But the weather has been a little bit of a challenge.”
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
STRIVE Special Programs Coordinator Katie Collins, left, helps Timothy Kerr of Cumberland Center stock the shelves at BookWorks!, which has moved to 24 Atlantic Place off Foden Road in South Portland.