Ocean City Used Book Store To Close This Month; Redevelopment Ahead For Coastal Highway Property

Ocean City Used Book Store To Close This Month; Redevelopment Ahead For Coastal Highway Property
bookstore outside

OCEAN CITY – After nearly 30 years, a north Ocean City landmark will close its doors this month.

The Bookshelf Etc., one of Ocean City’s last used book stores, will end its long run in the resort later this month as owners Roy and Ann Hanson prepare to retire. The property is expected to be redeveloped to house a seafood restaurant in the future.

“We appreciate the loyalty and the interest of customers over the years,” Ann Hanson said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

The Bookshelf Etc., a former cottage in an eye-catching shade of green on Coastal Highway, has been a popular stop for tourists in search of a beach read for decades. According to the Hansons, it’s been a part of Ocean City for roughly 50 years. Started by Clara Bellin, it was first located at the corner of Somerset Street and Baltimore Avenue. The Hansons took the shop over in 1980 and in 1986 decided to move away from the Boardwalk scene to the space at 81st Street.

“We were renting down there,” Roy Hanson said, adding that they were able to purchase the space in north Ocean City.

He said the transition from the busy Boardwalk to an area primarily made up of condominiums also made for more normal business hours.

“Being downtown your hours are so much later,” he said.

In spite of the seemingly quieter location the bookstore stayed busy, frequented primarily by people in search of a book to read on the beach.

“People who own condos within a 20 block radius,” Hanson said, “they walk here.”

Many of the customers are people who come back year after year during their annual Ocean City vacation.

“Sometimes you’ll have a young man with a wife and kid and he wants to show them where he bought his first comic books,” Ann Hanson said. “We have a lot of customers who keep coming back.”

She said that in spite of popular belief, the shop wasn’t hurt by the invention of the e-reader. Though people might use a device like a Nook or Kindle at home, when they’re heading to the beach they still want a cheap paperback. That, she says, is why the store has continued to sell primarily used paperbacks — typically priced at half their original price — through the decades.

“Paperbacks are the bulk of our business because that’s what people want for the beach,” she said. “And there’s such a variety here.”

Shelves are lined with popular bestsellers as well as books in just about every other category. There are drawers of classics, rows of westerns, a display of music-themed works and even a closet of romances. Though the shop is overflowing with books now, the Hansons say everything is on sale as they try to empty the store by the end of the month. They plan to close its doors after Sunfest.

“After all these years it’s about time,” Ann Hanson said.

While she and her husband are looking forward to retiring, they say they will miss their customers.

“We’ll miss the people,” Roy Hanson said. “Not the shop but the people we’ve met and made good friends of.”

The bookstore property has been purchased by local restauranteur Ernie Emerson, who says he plans to move Captain Ernie’s from West Ocean City to the 81st Street site.