In a historical town, on a glorious lake there is a magical book shop, “where books and people meet,” that I once called home,
Years ago, I had made the huge leap from my west coast life to the east coast, arriving in a controversial little place (named after the still living icon who had founded it) after midnight in the middle of a massive thunderstorm. Just days later, I was taken to this used book shop in the town’s crown jewel plaza on one of the town’s lakes. My boyfriend, a native of this town, left me (an avid reader and writer since the age of 6) there to occupy myself while he went to work.
I wandered tight aisles of books, stacked far above the top shelves, with books reaching to the ceiling. There were long shelves in the back for paperback romances and mysteries. There was a beautiful, antique armoire in the front of the shop, treats teasing from behind the double glass doors. Well worn, but homey looking Oriental style rugs were placed here and there. People were encouraged to sit and read, or just chat with the owner. In fact, there were chairs stuffed into corners and in front of the large picture windows, whose view was Lake Anne and its plaza. A very interesting fountain sculpture was just outside.
It was late October, my first fall in a region where the word autumn meant something. This tiny, cramped book shop overflowing with books of every sort and age and readers and book lovers was the perfect spot to be spending my day. What an amazing dream I found myself in.
As it wasn’t very large, I could hear everything anyone said inside the shop. The charming book shop owner spoke to everyone as if they were her family. From the conversations I gathered there were other owners and it seemed as if every “customer” was a long time friend or relative. I felt like I was in her living room. Townsfolk hauled in boxes, bags and tubs of used books for the owner to peruse, choosing just which items her collection required or wanted. Customers came in with paperback mysteries and romances to trade back in for “new” reads. Every purchase was hand written down as the genre sold and total price per purchase, then “rung up” on an antique cash register, which had come from the Gold Rush days. The little book shop ran like a well oiled piece of craftsmanship.
At the end of each transaction the book shop owner reminded everyone that the next weekend was near Halloween. Should you arrive dressed as a literary character you would receive a discount on purchases. How perfectly adorable! I was in love with the shop, with the people, with my new place of residence. I would be in here every day if I could.
I so hated leaving that evening, but the promise of returning the next weekend was enough to keep me going all week. I rummaged through my boyfriend’s clothes and devised a Huck Finn costume from his overalls and an old straw hat. The shop owner had mentioned goodies for the younger customers, so I took a chance and baked up a platter of sugar ghost cookies and a batch of brownies with raspberry wine sauce from my favorite west coast vineyard for the adults.
When I arrived, I offered my treats and officially met the owner, Victoria and her co-owners, Bud & Sooz. Bud was dressed as Benjamin Franklin and he was playing a hammered dulcimer throughout the afternoon. Everyone was warm and friendly. If I had felt I was in Victoria’s living room before, I now felt I was visiting my distant relatives.
I learned that day that there was an “official fan club” of this shop and a mascot. The “fans” & the stuffed animal are both called FRUBS – Friends of Reston’s Used Book Shop. http://restonsusedbookshop.com/ I met a few FRUBS, like Jenet, a playwright and Wayne and his wife, Pat, Lake Anne and Reston originals. I even met the Sues, who had originally owned the used book shop.
The most amazing thing happened before I left that second afternoon. Victoria, Bud & Sooz asked me to work for them, saying they knew from the moment they met me I was one of them. This was a dream come true. During the year I lived in Reston, we expanded into the shop adjacent and found enough room for the books not to be piled sky high, Victoria went on a very special trip to Wales and left me in charge and I became a Restonian. I became part of a large family of FRUBS, met the most interesting local heroes, including Reston founder, Robert E. Simon and enjoyed my first ever true autumn, winter and spring.
I have been back once – I worked the winter months and stayed with Victoria, overlooking Lake Anne and the plaza, the year after I moved back to California. I am still in touch with a FRUB or two, and even though we lost our darling Victoria, the Reston’s Used Book Shop is still the dreamy homey place it has been since the original owners, the Sues, opened the doors in 1978. You can still “browse to music” while Bud or other local musicians serenade you. There are many local author and reader events such as the “literary roundtable” and “open mic nights.” You can still find rare books, first editions and books from your childhood. The FRUB still knocks books off shelves. I’m not sure if books touched by RUBS staff have that special magic Victoria used to have – if she placed a book in a new spot in the morning when we opened it was sure to be the first book to find a new home before lunch, but I’m willing to bet it still happens. The only things missing are one Welsh lady’s “delicate sensibilities” and my baked goodies.
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