Around the Island

By the book: Heights shop is having a stellar summer

“Shelter Island needs a bookstore.”

This is what Finley Shaw said to herself before she decided to open Finley’s Fiction, the bookstore in Shelter Island Heights.

Ms. Shaw has summered on Shelter Island her whole life. When she was younger, she loved going to “Books and Video” in the Heights, which was attached to what is now STARs Café. While the Island can boast of Black Cat Books, the second-hand jewel of a bookstore on North Ferry Road that contains treasures for the serious bibliophiles or the casual browser, Ms. Shaw felt the Island needed a bookstore where new titles were available.

So, in the spring of 2018, she opened Finley’s Fiction in a small building behind the Chequit. In May 2020 the shop moved to a new location at 8 Grand Avenue, in the center of the Heights.

Business this summer has been great for the bookstore, and it’s their “best summer yet,” Ms. Shaw said, likely due to the influx of visitors to the Island in the wake of the pandemic. With the number of vaccinated people rising and mask restrictions loosening, Shelter Island has been busier than ever this summer.

Ms. Shaw said that last summer was also good for business, contrary to what one might think, because of lockdowns and quarantines.

Though many small businesses struggled during the height of COVID-19, Finley’s Fiction thrived as a result of the increased number of people living on the Island beginning in March 2020.

Lately, it’s been challenging for independent bookstores to compete with e-books and Amazon, which now owns 50% or more of the American book market. But, independent bookstores have something that online shopping can never provide, and that’s community.

Ryan Raffaelli, professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of “Reinventing Retail: The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores” has said, “It’s about curation and it’s about convenience. So what I mean by that is, first of all, part of the secret code here is booksellers have always been heavily embedded in their communities, but over the last 10 years they’ve been able to communicate the message of shopping local and localism.”

Finley’s Fiction did well through the pandemic, Ms. Shaw said, because of Islanders ordering books through an independent Island bookstore and supporting a community member, rather than shopping online.

Many people order books through the shop: children’s books, summer reading books, books for work or for pleasure; but Finley’s offers more than books. Ms. Shaw describes her shop as one that focuses on new books, but is also a place to buy host/hostess gifts, or Shelter Island memorabilia.

She said she tries to add something new to her store every year. This year, for example, she’s added a new line of candles. Finley’s Fiction also has an extensive number of toys, games and puzzles, the last of which Ms. Shaw said were “a huge hit during the pandemic.”

There are also events at the store, such as book signings. Coming up on Thursday, August 5 from 4 to 6 p.m., is a signing with author Mary Dixie Carter — recently profiled in the New York Times Book Review — for her thriller, “The Photographer.” And, on Wednesday, August 11, from 4 to 6 p.m., is another book signing with Elyssa Friedland for her book “Last Summer at the Golden Hotel,” a Good Morning America “buzz pick” for summer 2021.

The hottest seller this summer for the shop is “The Lost Boys of Montauk,” by Amanda Fairbanks, the true story of a fishing tragedy in which four men are lost at sea, and the repercussions arising from the incident.

Ms. Shaw personally recommends the book because of the detailed and fascinating history of Montauk and East Hampton. She also recommends the novel “The Plot,” by Jean Hanff Korelitz, a psychological thriller and page turner that “everybody seems to want to read this summer,” she said.

If you’re looking for more book recommendations, visit finleysfiction.com/ and see a list of about 100 books Ms. Shaw has read and loved this year. Additionally, if you visit the shop, you’ll find a well-curated selection of new books and helpful descriptions that can help you choose your next read.