July 7, 2013

Westport's Champlain Avenue opens

WESTPORT — Antiquarian, antique and retro with dashes of intellectualism and panache can all be incorporated in a description of Champlain Avenue, the recently re-opened book, clothing and furniture emporium.

Champlain is operated by Kathryn Cramer, formally an editor of science-fiction anthologies. She has a dossier as diverse as the eclectic collection contained within the confines of the wood-framed structure.

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The previously seldom-open, books-only shop had recently been known as Dragon Press, the name of the publishing company operated by Cramer and David Hartwell. Now open on a regular basis, Champlain has, in addition to the 4,700 books lining the walls, many other offerings.

Most of the volumes, except for some rarer and signed works, are on sale for less than $10 each. There are also some new works as well.

The structure, built in the 1920s, was originally a Masonic hall and, in 1991, the storefront was converted to house a wine shop.

“I wanted to keep as much original as possible. Even the grapes that were on the window have been left,” Cramer said. “Our selection is somewhere between eclectic and eccentric. We expect that customers will find this a fascinating place to explore. There is a lot to find here.”

The proprietor, who lives on the premises, added that one reason they bought a house with a storefront is that they had way too many books.

“A couple of years ago we tried, in a more part-time way, to have an open bookstore but the book sales couldn’t support the overhead. In March, I had the idea to partner with Katie Wilson of the Adirondack Attic in Keene to add clothing and furniture to the mix. So far, the books account for about one third of our sales and the other merchandise is the other two thirds.”

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