BookStacks owner Andy Lacher likens himself to a bartender.
The Bucksport resident makes recommendations, forms genuine friendships with his regulars and catches up on his customers’ lives across a counter.
“[I] listen, and people talk,” Lacher said. “People trust me.”
Lacher doesn’t deal in beer and cocktails, though; his business is books.
BookStacks is an independent bookstore in downtown Bucksport. Visitors can peruse the shelves of books and magazines, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi and grab a cup of Green Mountain Coffee for $1, including tax.
Lacher also sells wine, greeting cards, games and other small gift items. His trusty yellow cat, Leo, saunters around the store, cuddling up on the couch with obliging customers.
As one might expect of a bookstore owner, certain reads influenced Lacher’s life. Before moving to Maine, Lacher read Helen and Scott Nearing’s book “The Good Life” and Louise Dickinson Rich’s “We Took to the Woods,” and was attracted to the simple way of life described.
At the time, Lacher was living in his native Phoenix, Ariz., after graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in photojournalism. When his then-father-in-law bought 50 acres of land in the Waldo County town of Swanville, Lacher saw that making a life up north was possible.
“I said, ‘That’s for me,’” Lacher recalled. “I read the Nearings’ books, and Louise Dickinson Rich, and we decided to come up here and build the house I had always wanted.”
In 1983, he and his then-wife, Tammy, bought 10 acres in Winterport. Although they had no construction experience, they decided to build their own house.
“I built it like a log house, with 6-by-6 beams stacked on each other, and then framed inside and shingled on the outside of that,” Lacher said. “It was nice. It was home.”
Lacher got a job at the now-closed bookstore chain Mr. Paperback, starting in Brewer at $3.75 an hour, then managing a store in Belfast before becoming a book buyer for the chain.
He always wanted to branch off on his own, though, and in 1997, he opened BookStacks on Main Street.
In 2004, he remarried, and moved out of the house he built with his own hands to be in Bucksport with his wife, Kimberly, and his three new teenage stepchildren. It was difficult to leave the house, he said, but made sense.
Lacher is usually in the middle of three books at any given time: one for his bedroom, one for his bathroom and one for his kitchen table. Recently, it was “The Martian” by Andy Weir, “The Tree” by Colin Tudge and “10% Happier” by Dan Harris, respectively.
Whenever he finds a book to be worthwhile, he’s likely to recommend it to his customers.
And if a customer wants a book that isn’t sold in the store, Lacher orders it. In fact, that’s how some of his bestsellers have been introduced to the store.
About 10 years ago, a woman placed a special order for a copy of Kent Meyers’ “The Work of Wolves.” Lacher read it, loved it, ordered more and has sold 158 copies since then.
Aimee Hopkins, who lives just across the bridge on Verona Island, has been coming to BookStacks for about eight years.
“It’s got a real cool atmosphere, and the people that come in here are really friendly,” Hopkins explained. “It’s got a little hometown, country store kind of feel.”
She might come in as often as five or six times a week to get a cup of coffee, use the free Wi-Fi, browse the knitting magazines and visit with the other regulars who drop by.
Tom Goodman, a financial adviser for Financial Solutions in downtown Bucksport, has been a loyal patron since about 2001.
He makes the two-minute hike down the block to BookStacks at around 2 p.m. every day to grab a cup of “pretty good” coffee —according to the sign above the machines — and exchange some friendly banter with Lacher.
Goodman takes advantage of the diversity of books available at the store, purchasing everything from science fiction novels —most recently “The Martian” at Lacher’s suggestion, or “peer pressure,” as Goodman refers to it — to instructional texts about new hobbies.
“I’ve got a freshwater [fish] tank at the office now, so I bought five, 10 books from Andy and did some research online and learned how to [take care of it],” Goodman said.
Despite all of Lacher’s personal recommendations, and all the books that come to him from customers’ special orders, the number-one seller in his store is still the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer. He’s sold 742 copies since he installed the current computer system three years into his business.
“Everyone has one,” Lacher shrugged.
Where: 71 Main St., Bucksport
Hours: Monday-Wednesday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.