Owl & Turtle Bookshop turns 40

By Staff | May 05, 2010
Photo by: Linda Hall-Stone

Four decades ago, a little bookshop that eventually became renowned in far flung corners of the world opened as The Owl & Turtle, a name that describes its geographical location: the halfway point between two coastal reference points, Owls Head and Turtle Head, at the northern tip of Islesboro.

Besides providing the Midcoast with exceptional reading, it has hosted for the last 40 years an endless stream of distinguished authors.

On Saturday, May 8, The Owl & Turtle Bookshop will celebrate its 40th anniversary as Camden's oldest full-service, year-round bookstore.

"Forty years is remarkable for an independent bookstore," said Carole Lerner, the store's owner. "Thanks to our loyal customers and staff, we have built a great business and reputation that we hope will be serving Camden for another 40 years."

The Owl & Turtle was first established at 8 Bay View St. in 1970. In 2004, it moved to its current location on the corner of Washington and Mechanic streets in the Knox Mill Complex. At any given time, the store carries more than 10,000 titles, and the bookshop is home to a  Marine Room, as well as a Children's Room, and a wishing well that one can look down into to see the Megunticook River flowing below.

Author events are a cornerstone to the long-term success of the bookshop, said Lerner. The store typically hosts or sponsors between 40 and 50 events a year.

"There are certain bookstores that I frequently visit," said author Tess Gerritsen in a news release. "But there's only one store that has consistently been on my tours, the same store at which I've launched almost every book, and that's my hometown bookstore, The Owl & Turtle."

"We've had so many great authors conduct readings and signings," said Manager Joseph Barber. "Each event is special and a story within a story. Sebastian Junger was in our store when he got the call that the 'Perfect Storm' went to number one on the best seller list."

Last summer readers gathered in a line that extended out the door for Richard Russo's launch of "That Old Cape Magic."

For the late Dr. Paul Lerner, the magical moment in the store, according to Carole Lerner, was when two Pulitzer Prize winners, David McCullough and Richard Russo, were doing an event together.

"It doesn't get any better for a small bookstore in Maine," Paul Lerner said at the time.

The store has been featured in several travel magazines and was voted Maine's  number one independent bookstore and has been voted "Best of the Best" several times for VillageSoup.

The Owl &Turtle will host a storewide sale to commemorate the 40th anniversary on Saturday, May 8.

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