Binnacle Books: The Near-Sacred Experience of the Independent Bookstore

By Jody Strimling-Muchow

Binnacle Interior

When I moved to Beacon eight years ago, there was some great food, some killer art galleries and interesting antique stores and boutiques. But the town lacked the two things I can’t live without: a yarn shop and a bookstore. Well, good things really do come to those who keep hoping. Flash forward to 2019 and ta-da! We now have not one but two places for yarny indulgence, and our very own haven for all things literary, Binnacle Books.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Kate Ryan, one of the owners of Binnacle, recently.

GET LIT BEACON: Why ‘Binnacle’? What does your name mean?

BINNACLE BOOKS: When we were getting ready to open the store, we kicked around a lot of name ideas. We’re all book lovers (obviously) and thus word lovers, so we decided to name our store something that felt both aligned with our feelings about the role of literature in the world, and that simultaneously sparked a sense of curiosity in our fellow literary Beaconites. That’s all the information I’m giving! When customers ask the origin of the name, I tell them that one of my greatest joys in the world is learning a new word and feeling my mind reach for the metaphorical and poetic significance of it within the context in which I find it. So I leave it to you, dear readers, to follow your curiosity about the word, and to let your minds reach for the metaphorical meaning of how “binnacle” could relate to the importance of literature in the life of a reader. (Editor’s note: I took the liberty of looking it up. What do you guys think?) 

Binnacle Exterior

GLB: Beacon was so ready for a bookstore when you opened! But from a purely business perspective, it seems like a risky choice in this age of online shopping and shorter attention spans. Did it feel risky? What made you go for it?

BB: We are so lucky and honored to be Beacon’s independent bookstore. We love being on “book row” with the library and the wonderful Beacon Reads library book sale. We had all spent time in Beacon for years before opening the store and knew that it was the right community for our particular kind of literary bookshop to flourish, and we’re happy to say that the community has embraced us with open arms. Business-wise, independent bookstores are doing great, thanks to the dedicated support of readers. We bet on opening an independent bookstore because bookstores are so important to each of us individually, and because we knew that after the rise (and fall) of big bland chain shops and the supremacy of Amazon, readers have whole-heartedly returned to independent bookstores: for a feeling of belonging in a literary community, for the always-surprising and engaging interactions between booksellers and readers, for readings and events, and for a space to be among a curated collection of literature that always presents new ideas and paths to discovery. Endless choice can be exhausting—and small local shops are a great antidote to that. We bet on Beacon as a town full of readers who wanted to share all those near-sacred experiences with us at Binnacle, and we couldn’t be happier with how it’s turning out.

Printed In Beacon

GLB: Your website states that Binnacle “is a collaborative endeavor by four partners, who have collectively been writers, editors, musicians, producers, organizers, teachers, filmmakers, and booksellers.” Can you talk a little more about that?

BB: The partners at Binnacle are, in some ways, an unlikely group of collaborators. We have many things in common, of course, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that if you were considering our respective backgrounds individually. We’d each managed to be booksellers at one point or another, but we’d also done many other things along the way. It’s all additive — everyone brings something different to the project of running the store. And now we are lucky enough to have fantastic employees that contribute their own strengths and perspectives as well.

Binnacle Reading

GLB: What’s coming up at Binnacle?

BB: We’re co-hosting Story Time in the Garden, an outdoor storytime for kids, this summer with our lovely friends at the One Nature garden center (also located at 321 Main St). We’ll be hosting several more literary readings in the evenings this summer (follow us on Instagram and Facebook and get on our mailing list to keep up!), and a special children’s book release party and dance party in the garden in early September. Additionally, we’re partnering with the Spring Street Reading Series to sell books at their readings at Atlas Studios in Newburgh, and we’re happy to be partnering with Get Lit Beacon on many of your events as well.

GLB: Thank you, Kate! Like you say above, it’s a wonderful thing to have a relationship with a bookstore, for so many reasons. Thank you for letting us get to know you a little better.

Binnacle Books is located at 321 Main St., Beacon NY

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