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A few bucks goes a long way at Mansfield's Books and More

Eleven-year-old Conner Young of Tilton browses through books in the young adult room. He and mom Heather Young left with a stack of books. Meghan Siegler. (click for larger version)
June 23, 2010
TILTON — Tucked amongst Main Street's storefronts, a new shop's shelves overflow with gently used paperbacks and hardcovers, children's books and comic books, and all types of tomes in between.

Describing himself as a "book devotee," Mansfield's Books and More owner George Mansfield said that after 35 years working as a teacher in the Franklin and Hill School District, and triple bypass surgery, it was time to retire and pursue his dream.

"I've talked all my life about having a bookstore," he said.

Mansfield, who has a master's degree in reading, already had a bookstore of sorts; he's been selling books on eBay for nearly 15 years and on Amazon for four or five. His house and a 10x10 storage shed are filled with title after title of books from all genres, and he took from that stockpile to start his Main Street shop.

"Right now I'm shopping at home," Mansfield said. "I've got three bedrooms that have never seen beds and a garage that's never seen a car."

Mansfield has such a large collection that he was able to leave nearly 5,000 books when he left Hill to help the elementary school establish a school library. Prior to that, as a teacher at Franklin Middle School, he implemented a program called Read It, Own It, again giving away books from his own collection in an effort to promote childhood reading.

"If we don't have children reading, we're going to be in tough shape," he said. Through Read It, Own It, "they got to keep the books and develop their own personal libraries."

Mansfield buys used books on the cheap, often going to library book sales and picking up bagfuls for a few bucks.

"I buy them as cheap as possible and sell them as cheap as possible," he said.

Hardcovers go for as little as $2, with paperbacks and children's books generally selling for even less. Mansfield said he tries to keep everything under $5.

"I'm going to make rent," he said two weeks after he opened in May. "That's my goal."

Mansfield said that if someone comes into his store looking for a specific book, he'll try to find it online as a free service. If he can find it, he'll order it and sell it to his customer at cost.

"I love doing it," he said. "It's like treasure hunting."

Mansfield's Books and More includes a children's room, a chapter book room for young adults, and a homeschooling room full of materials, some available for purchase and some for loan. The main room is filled mainly with fiction and nonfiction, and books range from fairly new to decades old.

The "More" part of the store's name is for the odds and ends that Mansfield has on display, from Boyd's Bears and Winnie the Pooh figurines to baseball cards and Pez dispensers. He even sells matted pictures taken from old storybooks that are falling apart, because he "can't let them die."

Having lived in Franklin all his life, Mansfield couldn't resist the opportunity to rent the Main Street space when it became available. He said he's pleased that he has a local landlord, Michael Folsom, who used to run Widdershins out of the same storefront.

Heather Young of Tilton and her son Conner, 11, visited Mansfield's Books and More a couple weeks after it opened.

"Someone had told me there was a new bookstore," Young said. "I poked my head in and thought, my kid's going to love this."

Sure enough, Conner walked away from Mansfield's Books with a sizeable stack of reading material.

"He's in seventh heaven," Young said.

Mansfield said he will buy books from customers, and he takes contributions as well.

He can be reached at 455-8826. The bookshop is located at 291 Main Street.

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