Maggie and Craig White, new owners of The Owl & Turtle Bookstore and Cafe since November, feel welcomed by the community and the devoted customers of the independent bookstore that will be open 47 years this May.

"The business has such a strong identity in the community and people are so supportive," Maggie said.

She is a professional writer and life-long book worm, with a bachelor's in English from Colby College, and a masters degree in communication. Craig is an engineer and entrepreneur who most recently ran his own property management company. The couple grew up in the same town in Massachusetts, and have returned to New England after years of living and building careers in Charleston, S.C.

The Whites will continue the bookstore's tradition of book signings by well-known authors, and offering readings. An upcoming book signing March 11 features Michael Finkel's new book, "The Stranger in the Woods: the Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit." The book based on Finkel's interviews with "North Pond Hermit" Christopher Knight, after Knight was arrested in 2013, tells the story of the man who for 27 years survived alone in the woods of Rome, Maine by stealing food and supplies from local camps.

By February, they will launch an updated website, and a revival of one of store's previous logos. The Whites will "finely tune" the shop's inventory, section by section, and are working on plans to recreate a larger and more comfortable children's area for readings and story time, and rearrange the cafe seating, possibly adding cafe seating upstairs.

One of the benefits passed on to the Whites, as owners of The Owl & Turtle, is the proximity and generosity of local, best selling authors. Tess Gerritsen, who has debuted her novels at The Owl & Turtle before taking off on national and international book tours, Chris Van Dusen, the award-winning children's author and illustrator, and other well-known authors are known to stop by the store to sign and personalize their books. The authors are so nice, and will often stop by within a few days of being asked to sign a book, Craig said.

"When people call to ask for a book, it's great to be able to say we have it, and have a couple of signed copies as well," he said.

The Whites are also grateful to the former owners of the business from the founders to the more recent owners who built the cafe.

"I feel like we're the current caretakers for something that has been very well cared for by past owners," she said.

To prepare to run the cafe, Craig took a barista class from a friend in Charleston who is the head of a beverage program for a restaurant, and Maggie tapped her background in the culinary world, most recently as editor of The Local Palate magazine.

The cafe, built in 2014, provides a significant benefit to the business, according to Maggie. They currently feature locally roasted in Camden by Coffee on the Porch, owned by local teacher Dan Dishner, teas, and a selection of baked goods from Sea Biscuit in Rockport and the Red Barn in Lincolnville.

"Having come from an area where people are so serious about food and coffee, we met Dan, and roasted coffee with him," Craig said. "He has a remarkable palate for the nuances. He's a gem."

Disher will roast coffee in the late afternoon, according to Craig, and the coffee is delivered the next morning. "If we didn't have his product, we wouldn't be doing as well as we are."

A good sign for the new year is seeing the cafe become busier, even after the holidays. The morning regulars "come in right at 8 and stay until 10," Craig said. "Most of them come in every day." Other regulars will show up later in the morning, and four or five couples are among the customers who frequent the cafe in the afternoon. After getting to know their customers over the past few months, the Whites have been able to connect some of the morning and afternoon customers, and "start new conversations."

The regulars include former employees of the store, including some who had worked there for many years. One man comes in every day, "and has sent so many people our way," Maggie said, another comes in several times a week.

Recently, Jeffrey Conrad, whose parents started The Owl & Turtle came in to the store with two immaculately preserved binders he made for his parents, filled with "pictures of the store and newspaper clippings about book signings and events."

"It's such a testament to this area," Maggie said. She has seen that people have such positive memories of The Owl & Turtle's past, and at the same time, a desire to see the store move forward. "They don't just want it to be the way it used to be, they have a desire to see it evolve and continue."

The original owners Rebecca and Bill Conrad named the store, which opened in May 1970, based on its geographical location between two coastal points, Owls Head and Turtle Head, at the northern tip of Islesboro.

Maggie, who cherishes the opportunity to meet people and enjoy good conversation, as a balance to the solitary profession of writing, and Craig, who inspired the couples' return to New England, are more than happy to take their turn at the helm and steer the course of The Owl & Turtle.

The Owl & Turtle is located at 33 Bay View St.. Winter hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, email info@owlandturtle.com or call 230-7335.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.