[Updated 2/3/15: The Book Shop is closing at the end of February. Stop by to pick up a book and wish Gil well.]
Gil Barbosa doesn’t fit the mold of a typical bookstore owner. For starters, he spent a couple of decades working in the towing industry. But after speaking with him for just a few minutes, you know he is deeply passionate about what he does as the owner of The Book Shop in Ball Square.
“I was always a reader,” Barbosa said. Over the years, he helped his aunt with her Annies Book Stops and when she was ready to give up the business, he decided to jump in. But Barbosa wanted independence, so he leased the space at 694 Broadway and got to work.
“I wanted to open my own store,” said Barbosa, a lifelong Somerville resident. One of his aunt’s stores was in Belmont and he considered taking over the space until he came across the Ball Square location in the spring of 2011. Barbosa said the owner is a “real nice, sweet guy” who was very happy to have a bookstore in the neighborhood.
And the kind landlord isn’t the only friendly face Barbosa has encountered on his journey to bookstore ownership. He said that the thing he’s been most surprised by as the proprietor of The Book Shop is how appreciative people are to have a local bookstore to visit.
“They say, ‘thank you for being here,'” Barbosa said. “And I say, ‘no, thank you for buying a book.'”
The Book Shop stocks mostly used books, though as people request more new releases, Barbosa has been getting some of those in as well. Many people who come in to Barbosa’s store browse the fiction shelves and he gets a lot of compliments on his sci-fi/fantasy selection. But his big focus right now is on expanding the children’s area.
“We need more room for children’s events like story time, puppet shows and sing-a-longs,” Barbosa said. He’s in the process of moving the children’s merchandise to the back of the store to an area he’s calling Kid’s Corner that should be completed within a couple of weeks.
And though the news hasn’t been all good for the publishing industry during the last few years, Barbosa is confident that people will continue to buy books. He admits that while he’s not keen on e-readers, after encountering a Kindle, he admitted that it was pretty cool.
“There’s a certain part of the population who will continue to buy books,” Barbosa said. “Especially after being in an office on a computer all day, they want to read a book.” He added that bookstores serve another purpose as well, bringing communities together for events, something he’s been working on and hopes to expand in the future.
The Book Shop’s poetry and puppet events have been successful already and Barbosa has some authors lined up for the next couple of months. This Sunday, January 27 at 1 p.m., Daniel M. Kimmel, author of Shh! It’s a Secret, will be at The Book Shop.
Barbosa grew up near the now-booming Union Square taking the bus to Davis Square to see a movie at the Somerville Theatre and to bowl at Sacco’s (some things never change!) and is excited to be contributing to the Somerville community with his bookstore. He’s happy with the changes the city has seen in the last several years and is eager to see where it leads.
“The city, it’s always been a great place to be,” Barbosa said. “All walks of life come in here, it’s a great thing. I’m excited about what’s to come. People are finding out what longtime residents have always known–it’s a great place to be.”
The Book Shop
694 Broadway, Ball Square
Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.