New bookstore/gallery debuts in the Heights

ANNABELLE WOODWARD PHOTO Finley Shaw, right, and Adrienne Conzelman this week at Finley’s Fiction.
Finley Shaw, right, and Adrienne Conzelman this week at Finley’s Fiction.

Many Shelter Islanders look forward to summer as an opportunity not only to relax, but to relax while simultaneously — and usually, slowly — bettering their brains with books. Finley’s Fiction, a new bookstore located across the street from the Chequit’s White Hill Cafe hopes to help patrons do exactly that by offering a carefully-curated selection of new releases, literary classics and beach reads.

The store has been launched by first-time business owner Finley Shaw, who grew up coming to Shelter Island and has “never missed a summer” since she was born. A mother of four, she splits her time between Fairfield, Connecticut and the Island.

Ms. Shaw decided to open Finley’s simply because she loves to read. “I’ve always made time to read,” Ms. Shaw said, whose favorite books are “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt and “Rules of Civility” by Amor Towles.

Now that her kids are older and in the junior sailing program at the Shelter Island Yacht Club, she has more time to pursue her passion.

“There used to be a bookstore where the video store used to be that I’d go to, and when that closed I started thinking about doing a bookstore here,” she said.

When the space in the Chequit’s Cottage House became available, Ms. Shaw decided that the time was right. Her husband signed on to the idea because according to many recent studies, independently owned bookstores are on the rise.

Though Amazon has succeeded in shuttering big-name bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders, the American Booksellers Association reports that between 2009 and 2015, there has been a 40 percent increase in independent bookstores despite being in the middle of what many experts term the “retail apocalypse.”

This increase can be partly attributed to the American consumers’ search for community and face-to-face connection in their shopping experience, according to Nielsen, a global data analytics company.

“Most people come into bookstores for inspiration,” said Ms. Shaw’s friend, Adrienne Conzelman, who curates the art for the store. “It’s hard to peruse things online. I think that a lot of people don’t want to read a Kindle at the beach or on their boat. They want something they can hold.”

Unlike Black Cat Books, the other bookstore on the Island, which sells second hand and rare books and does much of its business online, Finley’s Fiction focuses on newer titles and bestsellers. For example, one title featured front-and-center is “The President is Missing” — a mystery-thriller co-authored by James Patterson and former President Bill Clinton.

“It’s weird, I know, but it’s selling very well,” Ms. Shaw said.

She describes Finley’s Fiction as a “neighborhood bookstore” in that a lot of her customers live in the Heights.

She described business as “Good. I have a bunch of neighborhood repeat customers,” she said, “The challenge is the location, making sure people know and spreading the word,”

Since the bookstore is tucked behind the Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy, it’s largely hidden from the view of traffic.

Another defining feature of Ms. Shaw’s business is the local art adorning the store’s crisp white walls. After opening the store, Ms. Shaw asked her friend Ms. Conzelman — who works as an art dealer and splits time between Connecticut and East Hampton — if she’d like to curate local artwork for the store.

Now Finley’s features photographs, paintings and mixed-media pieces by well-regarded artists from Shelter Island, Montauk, Bridgehampton and “really all over the East End.”

“Finley is a great patron of my gallery, ARC Fine Arts in Fairfield, and is really enthusiastic about a lot of the local artists that I work with. It was super last-minute, but it’s great to have exposure for myself and my artists on Shelter Island,” Ms. Conzelman said.

Ms. Shaw and Ms. Conzelman hosted an opening reception on July 3 that attracted about 75 attendees.

“We had nine of the artists here and some of my collectors from Connecticut showed up,” Ms. Conzelman said. “It was kind of like a block party. We’re surprised the police didn’t shut it down.”

About her hopes for the bookstore, Ms. Shaw said, “This is a totally new thing for me. It’s surprised me, people’s reception. They’ve been really excited, more so than I thought they would be.”