The #8216;Bookman#8217; returns

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2007

FRANKLIN—Do Bookmen resurface?

Apparently this one has.

In his words, and soon to be a sign above his business along Main Street in Franklin will say, “The Bookman is Back.”

For now, the sign is a simple one in the window that faces Main Street.

“Bookman” is Tom Swain, who for 10 years ran The Bookman book store along West Washington Street in Suffolk — not for from that city’s Main Street. He left there, he says for a variety of reasons. But he claims to know most every book dealer in the Tidewater area, and also claims that most every book dealer in the Tidewater area knows him.

“Everybody knows me as ‘The Bookman,’” he says with great pride.

He also claims he felt the need to get back into the bookstore business after a few years of dealing books online and dabbling in a few other arenas.

Perhaps it’s because he feels the need to do something with the 30,000 or so books he has in storage or in his Carrsville house, or because he longs to return to the world of dealing with books, their fans of their dealers. Or maybe it includes all of the sidelights that go along with being in the book business in a small town: Holding book readings and story-telling times, book-signings or local authors, or inviting an acoustic musical act or two to perform.

Or maybe it’s simply the natural cycle of things. Hard to tell.

Nevertheless, “The Bookman” is back at 208 North Main St., and he hopes to open the store tomorrow in some way shape or form, then to hold a “grand opening” after Jan. 1.

It is his goal, he said, to have worked through the holidays in order to “open the doors to the public” on Thursday.

The store will offer new and used books, some collector items as well as books for kids, fiction items, non-fiction items, hard-to-find items. He’ll include romance novels, teacher resource material and cookbooks.

Eventually, the store may also include magazines and/or video items.

And newspapers might be added to the offerings.

“A lot of people used to request newspapers,” he said.

He also hopes to offer books and materials relating history.

“I’m sort of a local history buff,” he said.

And by the way, the Bookman is optimistic: He says his opening a book store will be the end to any downtown flooding, although he says it with a laugh. A proclamation against future flooding of the downtown area, he believes, has something to do with karma.

We’ll see.

Swain — and he’d rather be called The Bookman, to be sure — helps out with The Salvation Army, and did so during the floods when the very Main Street his business will front was passable only by boat. He was employed as a truck driver for the “Army” for awhile and still maintains loyalty for the good work it does.

“Every organization,” he says, “has a rotten apple or two. But the Salvation Army does good work. It really does.”

Last weekend, he volunteered time at the vacated Schewel’s building along First Avenue in Franklin, dressed as Santa, escorting visitors to gather toys and gifts for Christmas.

In fact, his book store in Suffolk was adjacent to the Salvation Army building, and he still has emotional ties to the organization for what he says is the good work being done.

He chuckled in telling the story of when, during a break during the work at the Salvation toy distribution center last weekend, he and other volunteers went to get a bite to eat at Fred’s Restaurant around the corner where the waitresses wanted to have their picture taken with “Santa” in front of the Christmas tree.

But that has little to do with the bookstore at 208 North Main in Franklin.

He said he left his location

on West Washington Street in Suffolk because he “was doing really well on-line.” He sold his business to a fellow who later moved to Lynchburg to be with

his ailing mother, whose departure left the bookstore in the hands of another owner else. In short, the bookstore The Bookman left years before failed.

The bookman and his wife, Bonnie, eventually moved to Carrsville.

“And I made the move back to books,” he said.

“We know a right many people in Franklin,” he said.