LEWISTON – For those who discard the printed word, like an old paperback tossed around between friends, or those who read in digital form, it might be easy to pass by Bob’s Olde Books at 480 Center St.
But for those who have treasured and cared for beloved books and appreciate the art and style of a classic novel, revered and passed down like a piece of art, Bob’s Olde Books was a treasured haven on Center Street.
Owner Robert M. Giannetti recently announced plans to close up shop at the end of March, after more than seven years in the village. He plans to donate some 1,500 of his most treasured works of literature, as well as some antique furniture and bookcases, which will be used to establish a hub in his name in the library of his alma mater at Duquesne University, where he received his Ph.D. in Renaissance English literature. He earned his bachelor of arts at Niagara University.
Giannetti, 73, is also an internationally recognized poet and author. He said he will be leaving his business with a heavy heart, but wants to expand his work as a poet.
He has been married for more than 50 years and has two grown sons and several grandchildren.
Before he owned the bookstore, Giannetti served as an officer in the U.S. Army, worked as a college teacher, a garbage man and was the executive director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council. In the 1980s he became a managing partner of the Atlanta office of an international human resources consulting firm.
He sold his interest in the Atlanta firm and got into writing and book selling, coming back to Lewiston in 2006 and opening his shop.
“It’s the kind of business that really suits the community,” Giannetti said.
“I say that lifelong learning is the theme of my life,” he said. “I’m also a learning adventurer. I’ve had so many different jobs and changed careers many different times, all of which were rewarding to me in many different ways.”
In fact, shortly after he moved to Lewiston, he campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat on the Village Board. He said politics is not in his future, but he is still known to be a vocal citizen on topics that affect the community.
But he has found a niche in his poetry since publishing his first collection in 2003. Another book of poetry, “Winter Vision,” was published in 2011 and received both national and international recognition. After positive reviews and study in Poland, a bilingual edition of the book was published and accorded the honor of Best Book in 2011 at the 34th International November of Poetry Festival in Poznan, Poland.
Giannetti treasures the comments from customers who call his book shop, “A magical place.”
He said he started his personal collection while he lived in Atlanta, but had amassed so many books that he realized he needed to start selling them. He noted that at one time he had gone in search of antique books, but over the years, by word of mouth, sellers started contacting him. He has sold antique books for as much as $3,000.
“You can’t amass a collection like this by going to garage sales,” Giannetti said.
He said he favors fine bindings, including Victorian cloth bindings, and there are rules on the walls of his shop about how to lovingly handle antique books.
“Some of these are 100 years old and have never been mistreated,” said Giannetti. “I deal in fine books. A fine book has a wonderful binding, quality illustrations and great content.”
As for leaving behind both his treasured books and his store, Giannetti said poetry is the short answer. He also has collaborated with artists to create broadsides, a combination of art and poetry, and wants to continue these collaborations.
“It has to end at some time and I wanted to go out on a high note,” he said. “Of course I am sad. It’s bittersweet. Very definitely bittersweet, but it is the best thing to be done. I’m the only one who can sell this (collection) as a business.”
Referring to his donation to Duquesne, “It’s so much better to give this during your lifetime, when you can enjoy it and know that it is going to be preserved and used for educational purposes.”
Duquesne plans to take most of the books that are not sold by mid-March and Giannetti encourages the public to explore and, of course, purchase a favorite before then. All of the books are on sale for half-price until the shop closes.
Bob’s Olde Books is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays or by appointment by calling 861-9741.