October 29, 2013

New London’s Monte Cristo bookstore approaches its one year anniversary


New London’s bookstore is named after the character that Eugene O’Neill’s father James played over 6,000 times.

Last year, as Hurricane Sandy made its way up the Atlantic Coast, Christopher Jones and Gina Holmes were making plans to open a bookstore in New London, Connecticut. Having raised their goal of $10,000 through an Indiegogo campaign, they were moving forward with plans to install electricity into their initial location in the seaside town when Sandy hit.

The bookstore got its start with a dealer’s collection of 20,000 books bought from a closed Borders on Long Island that the owner’s family sold on Craigslist when he passed away. They also benefited from help in the form of furniture donations and bookselling advice from Annie Philbrick, owner of Bank Square Books in nearby Mystic, CT. While the devastation of the hurricane and delayed their timeline, Monte Cristo opened their doors on December 12, 2012.

Having moved after six months in their original storefront, today Monte Cristo hosts an ambitious number of author events in the store—fourteen are scheduled for the month of November alone, and owners Jones and Holmes welcomed their first son Evan four months ago. I spoke to Christopher Jones about the bookshop this past weekend during a visit to New London.

Is there a story behind the name of your bookstore?

Writer and playwright Eugene O’Neill was New London’s most famous resident. His father, James O’Neill, was an actor who played the role of the Count of Monte Cristo over 6,000 times in his life. So our name has a literary reference and a local reference.

What are your goals for the future?

You know, I never really think of it that way. It’s kind of like getting on a surfboard and you’re on the wave, and what are your goals for that? You just keep riding the wave until you can’t do it anymore! The bookstore itself has definitely taken on a life of its own. I thought I knew a lot about the publishing industry when we first started and I knew nothing at all.

I noticed anti-Amazon messages around your bookstore. Did you write them?

When we joined the American Booksellers Association, I noticed they had this thing about Amazon. And I went more into that, and thought what’s so bad? Well when I started reading, all I needed to see is—remember all the stuff they used to say about Walmart? Well Amazon is that, times ten. I came up with most of the signs just to be kind of snarky. I think there’s a real case to buy from an independent bookstore. We have a long list of author events and they’re all free, all a combination of local and national authors and all different genres. So we have something for everybody.





Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.