A Center Square landmark in Albany has gotten a new lease on life. Dove & Hudson bookstore is now under new ownership.
The red-paneled used bookshop at the corner of Dove Street and Hudson Avenue has been an Albany staple for 30 years. Former owner Dan Wedge has more or less been the shop’s sole employee for that time, manning the front desk six days a week among some 15,000 books from local libraries, churches, book sales, and publishers. Wedge finally listed the store in early 2019, after weighing retirement for a long time.
“Almost 10 years ago I became semi-retired, so I started closing the first seven days of every month. And I’m 71 now, so I also thought about the fact that, if I were to happen to keel over at any given moment, I’d be leaving my wife with a building and 15,000 books to deal with – which would be no fun at all," notes Wedge. "So that was partly behind my inclination to find someone like Joseph to take over.”
Joseph Nathan purchased Dove & Hudson and has joined Wedge in maintaining its packed shelves and stacks since the end of November. While most recently a Massachusetts resident – he previously worked for the Harvard Coop Bookstore in Cambridge – Nathan says he actually grew up in Albany.
“I left as soon as I could," Nathan laughs. "I came back because my family’s still here, and would find ways to return to this store.”
“He would come by and buy a considerable number of books," Wedge adds. "He also had new bookstore experience, so he was working in new bookstores and I knew about that.”
Between trips, Nathan and Wedge would often run into each other on business – and when Nathan heard the shop was for sale, he says he couldn’t pass it up.
“For me, what has been such a relief is the distance from the trend of the blockbuster," says Nathan. "Particularly in this political climate, to be away from the hot political book of the month – I guess it’s important for the industry, but it’s nice to be away from that.”
Nathan says publishers and new bookstores alike have become increasingly dependent on blockbusters – an unstable existence, considering it’s difficult to predict what makes a blockbuster in the first place. Despite Amazon’s hegemony, the number of independent bookstores is actually on the rise (according to a recent report by Minnesota Public Radio), but Nathan says they often face tight margins and the exhausting task of convincing customers to pay a little extra for the sake of the “local bookstore.” The convenience of one-click shopping, he says, is a formidable threat.
“Amazon is wonderful if you know precisely what you want – but for browsing it’s different. How do you find the other books? How do you look at what’s on the table? How do you talk to someone?" Nathan asks. "Being able to discover the tangible artifact that a book is is a magical experience, and for those who love books it’s like few others.”
At used bookstores like Dove & Hudson, though, Nathan feels like he’s outside the industry, “picking at the crumbs” – and that’s a good thing. By selling at used prices, he doesn’t have to keep up with the giants. And no matter how the industry bobs and dips – so long as people keep buying new books somewhere, Dove & Hudson will never be short of supply. Nathan says his job right now is to observe his customers’ tastes, and reacquaint himself with the community. For those in love with the store as-is, have no fear: he doesn’t plan to change a thing.
“Dan built such a masterpiece. Even if I’m the person who follows him, it’s still Dan’s," says Nathan. "And it’s still [about] continuing his legacy, more so than saying, ‘Yes, I now have my own bookstore, what I’ve been working for forever, and everything’s great!’ And it’s an education, it’s a learning, and it’s continuing what his customers expect.”
As for Wedge, his retirement plans are pretty open at the moment.
“A little bit of getaway traveling, certainly – more time to read books," Wedge laughs. "Instead of working on books."
But he’ll never be too far away. He plans to continue manning the bookstore a couple days a week.