BERWICK, NS - Heather Killen has translated a long-standing love of books and reading into one of Berwick's newest businesses.
Shelf Life Used Books is the next chapter in the former newspaper reporter’s career.
“It was a good job for a long time,” she said. “I enjoyed the work, but I was already feeling it was maybe time for a change.”
She was too young to retire and didn’t want to go back to school.
She described it as kind of “a midlife thing. I had just turned 50. My mother was 50 when she died, and my grandmother had died at around that age as well.”
After taking time to recharge her batteries, Killen was ready to move on. She “made up a list of things I'd been putting off” and decided to be proactive in finding her next job.
Last February, she was talking to a friend who operates a used bookshop in Middleton.
“He asked if I had ever considered opening a used bookshop, and he told me he knew of one in Halifax that was for sale,” she said. “(That) put the idea in my head. After Jon suggested it, I decided to give it a try. I've always loved reading, and I've always been fascinated by books and bookshops. There are lots of them around, but they're all different.”
Halifax didn't work out, but Killen learned of “an inventory of books that was for sale on P.E.I.” She took a leap of faith and purchased the books, but “didn't really have any space or location in mind.”
Meanwhile, she found a name for her business by accident.
“I was talking to a journalist friend, and I made the comment that at that point, I didn't know how much of a 'shelf life' I had. I thought that was a cool name, so that's the one I chose – Shelf Life Used Books.”
Books in hand – or at least, in a storage container - Killen then went looking for a space for her bookshop. A Dartmouth native who had lived and worked the past several years in the Valley, she didn't feel constrained by geography.
She looked at Kentville and New Minas, and briefly considered Dartmouth, before deciding on a location at 227 Commercial St. in Berwick.
Killen has always found used bookshops “a neat philosophy. People bring books in and trade them for other books.”
Books, she believes, withstand the test of time – and modern technology.
“In the evening, I don't want to turn on a computer to read a book. I want to get away from technology.”
Killen opened Shelf Life Used Books the first week in October.
“I'm having fun. I find I'm tired, because it's been a lot of heavy work. It's a good thing I've kept myself in shape,” she said.
She enjoys people coming in, and helping them find their stories. So far, she says, the town and residents have been very supportive.
“A couple of the town councillors have been in with books for me,” she added. “It's been better than I expected in a lot of ways. I like the energy in town, and the community development people have some great ideas.”
She is planning her Nov. 24 grand opening to coincide with Berwick's annual tree lighting, which will also include caroling and other holiday-based activities.
“It might be nice to hold (the opening) in the evening, to coincide with the celebrations they have planned,” she added.
Passion for books
Through the store, Killen says she’s learning a lot more about books and authors.
“I'm looking forward to a time when I can pick up some of the authors I haven't read before,” she said.
Shelf Life is still very much a work in progress, she adds.
“(I’m) still feeling my way. I have a lot to learn,” she said, and there are details still to be worked out.
And, because of the nature of the business, “it's always changing. At this stage, my customers are teaching me. I'm looking forward to the day when I'm able to recommend things to people.”
Overall, though, “I'm happy here. I think things have worked out for the best.”
If you go: Shelf Like Used Books is on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Shelfiesbooks). Heather Killen can be contacted by phone (902-538-7373) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org), but the best thing is to drop by 227 Commercial St. (on the corner by the four-way stop) to say hello and do some browsing.