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Richard Fulco Planning An Independent Bookstore In Rockland County; Indie Booksellers Are Proliferating While Big Box Stores Struggle To Reinvent
By Tina Traster
Remember the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly, recently out of a job, is sitting in the superstore Fox Books, when she hears a woman ask an employee if they sell the “Shoe” books. The employee had no idea what the customer was talking about. Kelly pipes up with “Noel Streatfeild” and proceeds to rattle off: “Noel Streatfeild wrote Ballet Shoes and Dancing Shoes and Skating Shoes and Theater Shoes…I’d start with Ballet Shoes first, it’s my favorite. Although Skating Shoes is completely wonderful…and it’s out of print.”
That is what’s sorely missing and is exactly what Richard Fulco is aiming to bring to Nyack when he opens Big Red Books on Main Street in July. Personal service, knowledge of books, a human experience where along with a bookseller one enters the magical kingdom of letters and the written word.
Fulco is not alone – slowly, independent book stores are sprouting in small towns and big cities. They are an antidote to several decades of the mind-numbing experience of the bookstore that is also the big box store. Both creatures – the Barnes & Nobles and the mom and pops – have had to deal with Amazon and other online competition, not to mention the changing reading habits of younger Americans. But the small bookstore endures because it speaks to something primal and good and necessary in a world that often feels big and overwhelming and impersonal.
Fulco’s venture will essentially bring the first new indie bookstore to Rockland County, apart from other established bookstores like Pickwick, also in Nyack, and “just around the corner.” Fulco says his new-books selection will complement Pickwick’s used and collectible books. Barnes & Noble in Nanuet hangs by a thread, though its longevity remains questionable while Rockland Plaza owners continue to undertake a major overhaul of the center. Barnes & Noble has closed more than 100 stores in the last 15 years, but plans to open 30 new ones this year.
The bookseller, 55, is an author, poet, playwright and high school teacher who lives in West Orange, New Jersey. A bookstore is a lifelong dream – as it is for many creatives who’ve found their way through the world with the help of prose and letters. Fulco said he chose Nyack for its vibe, friendliness, and its literary notables like Carson McCullers, who lived in South Nyack.
He found the space, recently vacated by the Rock Shop, which moved to a larger location, on a walk down Main Street. For years, he’s been researching bookselling, working in book shops, envisioning a day when he’d have a bookstore of his own. The space spoke to him; he has signed a three-year lease.
“I was walking down the street and saw the spot,” said Fulco. “It called out to me. I don’t mean to sound too new age-y, it just spoke to me.”
Big Red Books is a personal nod to the big red couch he and his partner share in their West Orange home. The couch, where they watch movies, share meals, hang, has taken on a personality of its own. The bookstore will have a red couch, though Fulco is not sure how big, given he’s only got about 700 square feet to play with.
He plans to stock the shelves with a wide span of genres: general interest, sci-fi, fantasy, poetry, history, philosophy, sports, entertainment, art, cookbooks, and children’s titles. But Fulco understands that bookstores are community hubs and that bookstores need to be more than just, well, stores that sell books. He’s planning on readings, workshops for teens, getting involved with schools’ book fairs. Eventually he hopes to open the backyard to use as a gathering place where coffee is served.
“We are looking to be part of the community,” said Fulco. “People want to go back to mom-and-pop shops where there is a personal touch. Where you can talk to someone who knows about books, where you can browse. Where it’s personal.”
Fulco, 55, grew up with a pen in his hand. He’s led a “writing life,” including publishing novels, poetry and a music blog. He’s also taught high school for a quarter century, most recently at The Hudson School in Hoboken.
Now he’s ready for his second act.
“Books have been my life,” said Fulco. “Everything I do is centered around the written word. I’ve been a teacher for a long time. I’m ready for a new journey. I’ve been thinking about his for a long time. This is a dream I haven’t given up on.”