DARIEN — Even as a young girl, Sheila Daley dreamed of one day having a bookstore.

“I’ve always dreamed of owning a bookstore,” said Daley, owner of Barrett Bookstore on Heights Road in Darien. “My mother used to take me to the old Barrett bookstore off of Summer Street in Stamford.”

Daley, a 74-year-old town resident, said she has owned the store for 21 years. David Rose had previously owned the bookstore for many years, and then allowed a young couple from Texas to run the store for two years.

The young couple left a lot of creditors and the store in bad shape, she said. When Daley and her husband came into the picture in 1997, there was work to be done.

“When we first bought it, it was sort of bare bones,” Daley said. “We expanded it right away and added on the children’s section.”

Things went very well for the first five to six years, she said. Then e-books came onto the scene and Amazon became larger.

“There was a lot of moaning and groaning in the publishing world saying this is the end of the book as we know it,” Daley said.

Recently these fears have subsided, as Daley believes the e-book has, in some ways, plateaued. She said people’s constant exposure to screens at work and in their daily lives may have contributed to this.

“A lot of people now would rather have a real book than read on a screen,” she said. “So I think the e-book has now kind of leveled out if not gone down.”

Daley said Barrett Bookstore is a place people can come and talk about books they’ve read and enjoyed. Staff at the bookstore also give their recommendations to customers and discuss books they’ve enjoyed, she said.

“It’s become a really great experience,” Daley said. “People come in and often they’re looking for a gift for a baby shower. Or a book to help somebody to help cope with a sickness.”

Daley said the bookstore provides a place for customers to come in and feel open to discussing these type of events.

“You get to know a lot about people’s lives,” she said. “It’s amazing to me. That connection.”

Growing up as one of nine children, Daley she said she was an indifferent reader until one family vacation. While on a trip to Bermuda, the weather took a turn for the worse — it rained the entire time, ruining some of the family’s plans. Daley said her mother gave her book to take her mind away from being stuck in a small cottage.

“It was a revelation to me,” she said.

Her mother would go on to be a major influence and the main reason for her passion for reading.

“My mother was a big reader,” Daley said. “She would always pass on her books to me.”

Over the years, the books Daley loved changed. At first she loved reading mystery novels, but over time she fell in love with reading biographies.

“I discovered I could learn a lot about history through reading biographies,” she said. “At this point I’d say I’m reading mostly literary fiction.”

Daley said every bookstore has their own character and clientele they cater to.

“You have to know who you’re demographics are and what appeals to them,” she said. “It’s going to be very different in say a New York bookstore. Their inventory would be totally different then what they have here.”

Daley said she is still unsure if clientele is attracted by the inventory a bookstore has or if the inventory has to be tailored to customers that come in.

“It could be a combination of both,” she said. “It’s still a mystery to me why some books take off and other books that are really good don’t do anything.”

Daley said independent bookstores are returning despite the presence of Amazon and e-books.

“For awhile, there where a lot of independent bookstores closing,” Daley said. “The trend seems to be reversing. Hopefully it will continue.”


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