Topsham bookstore gets boost from best-selling author

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TOPSHAM — There’s nothing like a monetary thumbs-up from a best-selling, award-winning author to tell you that your bookstore is doing a good job.

Percy’s Burrow, which sells books, toys and gifts at 65 Topsham Fair Mall Road, is among the independent bookstores benefiting from a $1 million donation from author James Patterson. The Topsham store received $2,500.

“I believe we’re at a pivotal moment in our history, when far too many children – the future stewards of our society – are at risk of living lives without books,” Patterson wrote to bookstores last October. “To my mind, this translates to a risk of living in a world run by the shortsighted, by the empathy-challenged, and by the glib.”

He described bookstores as “our most viable bulwark” against the situation, which he called “as grave a peril as I can imagine.”

Patterson, who is widely known for his novels about fictional psychologist Alex Cross, pledged to donate $1 million over the next year to independent bookstores. He asked the businesses to send him a short explanation of how they would use $500 to $10,000.

Percy’s Burrow did just that, and Patterson responded with $2,500. The gift has brought the store widespread recognition, which owner Laurie St. Pierre said is crucial.

“The recognition is what we’ve needed for a year,” she said last week. “Because people still don’t know we’re here. … To have James Patterson put such an emphasis on small bookstores, and local bookstores, is really truly what’s going to save the industry.”

Percy’s Burrow has been at Topsham Fair Mall since November 2012, according to St. Pierre’s daughter, Jessica St. Pierre, who is also the store’s assistant manager. It followed a store that started in Auburn in 2006, but was closed to allow the owners to focus on the Topsham business.

It is still being determined exactly how Percy’s Burrow will use the money, Jessica St. Pierre said. The store last year gave books to children at the Williams-Cone Elementary School in Topsham as part of the Read Across America challenge.

“We would really love to do something similar to that,” this time with more schools in the area, she said.

“I’ve always felt really strongly that the independent bookstore is what makes a community a community,” St. Pierre explained. “Every town I go in, I always look for that little independent bookstore to go in. You get a real good sense of the town, and the community that’s in it. And I think grants like this just allow us to keep going, allow us to know that we are appreciated, that people do want their bookstore to stay in business.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Jessica St. Pierre, left, is assistant manager, and her mother, Laurie St. Pierre, is the owner of Percy’s Burrow, which sells books, toys and gifts in Topsham. It is among the independent bookstores benefiting from a $1 million pledge from author James Patterson.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.