So Says Eagle River Book Store Owner.
Forty-four-year-old Cindy Montgomery is sporting a black and gray ACDC shirt and perfectly straight, long hair. The owner of Eagle River’s only bookstore, The Book Shelf, Montgomery is a life-long Chugiak resident.
“I was supposed to be born in Alaska,” she said. Doctors were worried Montgomery’s mother (36-years-old) couldn’t get the prenatal care she needed, so she went to Arizona to stay with family until after the pregnancy.
Montgomery graduated from Chugiak High School in 1990. She worked at The Book Shelf for 13 years before purchasing it in 2012. Her used bookstore is bursting with thousands of titles, a kid’s corner, a piano donated by a customer and soft chairs scattered between racks.
When asked to name a favorite book, Montgomery looked pained.
“A bibliophile usually doesn’t have a favorite book,” she said. “They usually have a favorite book in every genre.”
In an age of e-books and free online shipping, Montgomery believes a brick and mortar bookstore is still viable.
“My customers want a physical book,” she said. “They like the smell of them. They want to flip through them.”
Montgomery’s customers also appreciate the savings they get from buying second-hand. Patrons can exchange books for in-store credit (25% of original price) and buy books for half of their original cost.
With a total of 18 years behind the counter, Montgomery knows her clientele well.
“I have great customers … Sometimes I go above and beyond for customers and sometimes they go above and beyond for me,” she said.
Recently, a customer left her credit card on the counter. Montgomery knew the woman was headed to pick up her mail, so she called the post office, which directed the woman back to The Book Shelf.
There is an ironic downside to owning a bookstore.
“I don’t get to read much anymore,” Montgomery explained. “I’m here six days a week.” Her oldest son, Dave, helps out when he’s not in classes at UAA. Montgomery’s niece also covers the shop so Montgomery can attend folk/clogging classes twice a week with her performing group the Borealis Dancers.
During the interview, Otis Raymond of south Anchorage entered the store with a booming voice, a big personality and a hug for the owner.
“I hug lots of my customers,” Montgomery said.
Besides hugs, Montgomery also hands out free books. The Book Shelf passed out 31 boxes of books at last year’s Bear Paw parade.
The stacks of books at The Book Shelf beg the question: Can you ever have too many books?
“No!” shouted Haleigh Kirchenheiter of Eagle River from the book-on-tape section. She was at the shop getting ready for a road trip.
Montgomery agreed. “You can have not enough bookshelves.”
The Book Shelf
11401 Glenn Hwy #110
Eagle River, AK
Open Monday thru Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
Editor’s Note: Melinda Munson is a member of the ECHO News team and recent resident in Chugiak. We love her fresh eyes looking at this community and engaging with it as she learns the lay of the land here. She also is the mother of six children – four of which have special needs – and thus has earned an immovable place of admiration in my heart.
Cindy’s Suggestion for 10 Great Reads
By Cindy Montgomery, Owner of The Book Shelf, Eagle River With Cindy’s Quick Thoughts on Each Book
- “Mr. Perfect,” by Linda Howard
A murder mystery with a bit of smut that kept me laughing.
- “The All Soul’s Trilogy,” by Deborah Harkness
A story of witches, vampires, demons and a quest for the book of life. My husband loved this one too.
- “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years” by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany
A biography of the Delany sisters who grew up to become the second black woman dentist and the first black woman home-economics teacher. They both lived to more than 100 years of age.
- “Kiss of the Highlander,” by Karen Marie Moning
A time-travel romance with a bunch of humor.
- “The Belgariad,” by David and Leigh Eddings
An epic quest for a magical object with wizards, gods, and magic.
- “One Second After,” by William Forstchen
The first book of a trilogy that makes you think “what if” something apocalyptic happened?
- “Harry Potter” by J. K. Rowling
Need I say anything?
- “Outer Bounds” by Sara King (local author)
An epic, post-apocalyptic science fiction adventure that will make you hold your breath, cry, curse the powers that be, and in the end–question what, exactly, it means to be human. Author is a friend and customer of mine.
- “In Death,” series by J.D. Robb
Roughly set 50 years into the future. Eve Dallas is a New York City cop that probably shouldn’t get involved with an Irish billionaire, but she does–and solves the crime too.
- “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be,” by Farley Mowat
A true coming of age story about a boy and his dog. I laughed and cried.