To be or not to be a bookstore? Hamlet’s opens in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com
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To be or not to be a bookstore? Hamlet’s opens in Breckenridge

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – What once was a home, then a boarding house, a funeral parlor, a law office and radio station is now home to Hamlet’s Book Shoppe, Breckenridge’s newest book store.

“The house – that’s what sets me apart,” said Hamlet’s owner Cary Hardin. “I don’t think this would be the same bookstore without the house.”

The 1880s home has seen little use since 1982 when KLGT – now KSMT – moved out. Today, the door stands wide open inviting people in to peruse calendars, cards, candles, newspapers, whimsical throw pillows and, of course, thousands of books.

Sunlight beams through a large bay window facing Main Street and another in the entranceway. Hardin and numerous friends have spent the past two months tearing up old carpet, painting and selecting titles to feature in the store.

“I knew the second I walked in how I wanted it to look,” Hardin said. “I just knew – instantly. There wasn’t a question about it.”

The walls are painted a deep red, like fine wine, and trimmed with a taupe that accentuates the wooden floors and heavy bookcases.

A children’s room is adorned with a faux-fur bear rug and fuzzy pillows, stuffed animals litter the floor, a traffic signal blinks red-green-yellow above a door, and a large window between rooms enables parents to keep an eye on their children.

“If kids are comfortable in the kids’ room, the parents will comfortable in the store,” Hardin said. “They’re already excited they have a room of their own.”

Adjacent to that is a room with books on home design, travel, self-improvement, investing, animals, cooking and Colorado. A rack of topographical and road maps is also available.

A room dubbed “Etcetera” features candles, keychains, journals, cards and pet bowls; the front room features biographies, mysteries, classics and top-selling books, among others.

Hardin, who holds a degree in literature from the University of Southern Florida, never thought to open a bookstore until recently.

“Funny how things happen,” she said. Hardin hoped to open a bookstore a year ago, but plans fell through. She later told Robin Theobald, who owns the building, that she’d gone through the gate and peered in the windows of the old house; he offered to lease her the space.

The work began in May.

“I was so excited to get in here, I didn’t know what to do,” Hardin said. “I started cleaning the windows.”

Now, almost eight weeks of 18-hour days later, Hardin has a store she feels is inviting.

“I want a bookstore that’s for everybody,” she said. “I want to create a place where locals feel comfortable, because I know so much of Summit County caters to the tourists.”

Tourists and locals alike have flocked to the store since its opening July 4, Hardin said.

“We still had 50 boxes of books to unpack,” she said, “but the people kept coming in; we couldn’t keep them out. We tried opening from 4 to 9, on a trial basis, and people started showing up at 1. We had to take the sign down.”

Unlike the location and the bookcases, coming up with a name didn’t come easy. She settled on Hamlet’s both for its literary connotations and its meaning: a small village.

With that as an overall theme, Hardin has outfitted the store with items emblematic of small towns. A big bucket of water and a dish of dog treats is just outside the door. On weekends, she has served lemonade and doughnuts on the deck. Adirondack chairs sit on the lawn. Her answering machine implores people with “book emergencies” to call her any time.

She plans to start a book club next month. Teachers, book club members and frequent buyers can join the Book Addicts Club and receive discounts.

She realizes she’ll have competition, particularly when Borders Books and Tapes opens in Dillon this fall.

“It’ll keep me on my toes; make me a better business person,” she said. “It will make me work that much harder.”

But she’s counting on the small-town feeling to win over customers from big-box cookie-cutter stores.

“Having grown up in a city, I like the small-town feeling,” Hardin said. “I don’t want that to go away.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

Hamlet’s Book Shoppe

– Where: 306 S. Main St., Breckenridge

– Hours: Sunday – Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (and later).

– Phone: (970) 453-8033

– Amenities: Special orders, book club, discounts for teachers and all book-club members, daily New York Times.


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