Shelf Space: Maria's Bookshop

We talk to the indie bookstore's owners.

Andrea Avantaggio and Peter Schertz of Maria's Bookshop.

Like indie bookstores everywhere, Maria’s Bookshop reflects the interests and inclinations of its community. Dusty Teal opened the Durango, Colorado, store in 1984 and set the bookshelves among Navajo rugs, an Old Town canoe, original art, and antiques. There is no “Maria”; the store’s name originated from Teal’s affinity for the work of potter Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso, New Mexico. Current co-owners Andrea Avantaggio and Peter Schertz bought Maria’s in 1998. Here Avantaggio talks about Edward Abbey’s visit to the store, kids’ continued devotion to print, and bookselling in the Great American Southwest.


How would you describe Maria’s Bookshop to the uninitiated?

Antique snowshoes, skis, and sleds, as well as some beautiful work by local artists, hang from our walls. We have a staff of 15 dedicated booksellers and a large and loyal clientele from the local community of about 45,000. Maria’s Bookshop sponsors over 100 active local reading groups, hosts dozens of special events a year, and supports a wide range of local organizations. We are proud to be a long-standing community resource. We offer everything you could possibly need in a bookstore—rolling ladders, an upside down canoe hanging from the ceiling, treats for your dog, and books!


If Maria’s Bookshop were a religion, what would be its icons and tenets?

Maria’s Bookshop is a religion to many! We are open for worship every day—our bird logo is a definite icon for book lovers in our region and beyond. We welcome readers of all ages and genres.


Which was your favorite event?

Our very favorite event happened before Peter and I were involved with Maria’s Bookshop. Edward Abbey was in Durango and appeared at Maria’s for his last book signing before he passed away. We love being a part of his history and honor him daily by putting his books in the hands of our customers.


What trends are you noticing among young readers?

Young readers love to hold books as much as adult readers; they love to see them and collect them on their own bookshelves. They love to share them with friends and to talk about them with someone who cares and can help them find their next great read. We are definitely not seeing a mass exodus from the printed page to the electronic page! Books that are catching the eyes of our younger readers are the books based in reality dealing with social issues beyond “I love him, he doesn’t love me.” They are reading books about gender identity (Will Grayson, Will Grayson), homelessness (Burn Girl), death and dying (Fault in Our Stars), and history (The Book Thief). Movies have helped drive these sales, but I am thrilled that readers realize the book is always better!


What are some of your top current handsells?

We have anShelf_Maria eclectic group of readers right now. We are loving selling Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, Big Short by Michael Lewis, All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig, A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk, Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink, and A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.


What is your ideal busman’s holiday?

Lots of time for lots of books; the location is secondary, though a warm locale in the winter months is preferable, as is a cool locale in the summer months. Add a comfy place to sit, with natural lighting, an endless cup of tea, and the top 12 books from the stack beside my bed, and I’m on holiday and in bookseller’s heaven.

Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor.


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