MYSTIC – Bank Square Books – the locally owned, strictly independent bookstore with a sister store in Westerly – has inspired many events and relationships since it opened its doors on the corner of Water Street and West Main in historic downtown Mystic more than 34 years ago doors opened.
Last week it inspired a new partnership.
As of May 2, the building that houses the bookstore is owned by 49-53 West Main LLC, a partnership between Annie Philbrick, the bookstore’s owner, and philanthropist Chuck Royce, the landlord of Philbrick’s Westerly store Savoy Bookshop & Cafe on Canal Street.
“I’m thrilled to be a partner with Chuck,” Philbrick said Thursday. “He believes in independent bookstores, his wife is an author with a new book coming out and he’s very generous.
“I feel incredibly lucky,” she added. “I have great admiration for Chuck… great respect.”
“I couldn’t be happier with the new partnership,” Royce said on Thursday afternoon.
A lifelong book lover, Royce said he has always supported independent bookstores and has fond childhood memories of the bookstores in Washington, DC, where he grew up.
“My mother was an avid reader,” he said, “and my wife is an author, visiting bookstores across the country.”
Royce’s wife, Deborah Goodrich Royce, is the author of two psychological thrillers, Finding Mrs. Ford, released in 2019, and Ruby Falls, released in 2021.
Philbrick, a Stonington resident, said she had been talking about buying the building from the owners for some time – the Neff family have owned the downtown Mystic Cornerstone building for generations – but without any sense of urgency.
“It was kind of off my radar,” she said.
Then, about five years ago, she began to think more seriously about the purchase, especially as members of the Neff family were also exploring her options.
An assessment has been conducted, she said, and she has met with representatives from the Small Business Association and local bankers.
“But I couldn’t figure it out,” said Philbrick, who serves on the board of directors of the American Booksellers Association and twice ran the association’s Indies Introduce program, which highlights debut authors.
A while back, she said, she mentioned the situation to Royce at a Savoy-sponsored writers event in Westerly, held at the United Theater for chef and YouTube star Brad Leone.
“It was a conversation about the bookstore,” she recalls. “I said how important it was to the bookstore [to own the building.]”
“He said, ‘I’ll do it with you,'” she recalled. “He said, ‘I want to help.'”
“I’m proud to play a small part in Annie’s lifelong commitment to independent bookstores,” Royce said in a statement. “I am delighted with the Savoy and owe a huge debt of gratitude to Annie and her talented team.”
“It’s business as usual now,” Philbrick said with a small laugh. “Business as usual with different landlords. … We live right on the corner and plan to stay there as long as life goes on.”