Amy Hall was cleaning out her bookshelf at her home in Ossining when the inspiration struck for her new business, Hudson Valley Books for Humanity.
“I was doing my occasional closet cleanout one day earlier this year and I thought, ‘Gosh, I also have a lot of books. Let me clean my bookshelf,’” she said. “And I did that and then was reflecting on how hard it is to donate used books — good quality used books — because the libraries are often maxed out and I’m not really comfortable just taking them down to some of the charitable places that people typically donate to, because those things so often get just thrown away or aren’t necessarily used to their fullest extent.”
Hall, a social consciousness strategic adviser at Eileen Fisher in Irvington, is concerned with sustainability and social consciousness both in her corporate role and in her day-to-day life. These values, she said, she saw reflected in the county, too.
“I thought about (how) we are a very aware and active community in Ossining and the surrounding villages,” she said. “We have a really active kind of climate-oriented population — also social justice — and those are the things that I personally have been working on professionally for a really long time and that really means a lot to me as an individual. So, I thought it would be really great to have that be a slice of this bookstore.”
She concluded that she wanted to start this bookstore to sell used books of all genres in addition to a selection of new books focusing on social and environmental justice themes, and by and about women and people of color and other historically marginalized voices that may not always be showcased in the average bookstore.
There will also be artwork and crafts from local artisans and vendors available in the store, along with used vinyl records for sale.
Aside from the retail aspect, Hall hopes that it will also be a place where members of the community can gather to enjoy the space, read, have conversations and even host and attend events centered on literary and artistic topics.
“I want to just to make this a place where people feel welcome, where anybody in the town feels welcome,” she said. “A place where all the different threads of the town intersect. That’s where the idea was born.”
Although Hall hasn’t launched it yet, she also envisions partnerships with other businesses and organizations, many of which she views as similarly community-minded.
She views the bookstore as a complement to other businesses in the area, and has even used the bookstore’s social media pages to recognize other Hudson Valley bookstores and other Ossining businesses such as Penny & Ting and Sing Sing Kill Brewery.
Hall is continuing to fundraise for startup costs through an IndieGoGo campaign, which at mid-August was almost a quarter of the way to its $50,000 goal. She noted her gratification at how many people, some of whom she has never met, were eager to donate and believe in the need for such a bookstore.
“It’s about 70 people (who have donated so far) and I’d say that at least a third of the people who have supported it, I have never met,” she said. “And it’s really almost all individuals and, to my knowledge, as far as I can tell, one business in the area.”
In addition to monetary contributions, many people are interested in donating their used books to the store. So many, in fact, that Hall has had to pause taking the donations; she now has more than 4,000 books.
When Hudson Valley Books for Humanity opens in the Olive Opera House on Central Avenue sometime in October, Hall said that she will have a solid inventory of used books to start out with, and will begin curating a selection of new books as well.
Hall has also received input from other community members and business owners through her advisory group, offering a perspective on a variety of topics essential to opening, including business plans, costs, social media, market research and identifying artists and vendors from around the Hudson Valley to carry in the store.
Hudson Valley Books for Humanity will add to a small landscape of used bookstores in the Westchester area, including Bruised Apple Books in Peekskill, Blind Dog Books in Chappaqua and Booksy Galore in Pound Ridge, the last of which also sells a combination of used and new books.