ST. ALBANS CITY — Donna Howard loves books.
It’s why she opened the Eloquent Page, St. Albans’ new, used and rare bookseller nearly 30 years ago.
Howard opened the store in 1992 on Catherine Street.
The store moved to its current location, on the corner of North Main and Center streets, 20 years later, right as the downtown streetscape project commenced.
Howard said it can be challenging being a physical bookstore in the 21st century. But those stores’ main threat, online retailers, haven’t thwarted the Eloquent Page.
Howard sees a steady stream of customers many mornings, from right after the store’s 10 a.m. opening to noon. And Friday nights in the summer regularly bring streams of tourists between the shelves.
Then there is the next generation of readers. Howard said she sees a surprising number of younger visitors, who, despite their alleged attraction, or even addiction, to digital media, prefer physical books.
“They do so much electronically,” Howard said. “When they relax, they want something different. They want something to hold, and to be off their devices.”
There’s a lot of Franklin County in the Eloquent Page.
The store regularly hosts local author signings, and Howard’s proud of the store’s extensive selection of local history books, as well as what Howard called a “huge” section of general Vermont books.
The store also sells St. Albans postcards, reproductions of postcards from more than 100 years ago.
Howard said she often orders new books for customers, but the store’s vast amount of used books presents opportunities readers might not even know they’re missing.
Gems are sprinkled among those surprises.
“You don’t have fifty people looking for Petroglyphs of the Southwest,” Howard said. “But I get something interesting like that and I keep it because that person will come along who finds it interesting.”
Howard said that happens fairly often.
“I had a couple people in today who were buying books on Latin and Greek,” she said. “I had some Beatrix Potter in Latin. They bought those. And a book on Homeric Greek.”
But Howard herself might be the Eloquent Page’s distinguishing feature. She’s widely read, and reads a variety of genres and authors — “a little of everything,” Howard said.
She’s often — not always, she stressed, but often — able to direct readers toward books they might enjoy. When the Messenger visited the store, Howard was in the midst of directing a woman searching for her daughter’s next read.
“There are literally millions upon millions of authors, and multiple millions of titles out there,” Howard said. “But I know how to find things out if it’s not something I do already know about.”
She highlighted two of the store’s sections, children’s books, of which the Eloquent Page has a wide selection, and costume and fashion books, which Howard said is one of the store’s “minor specialties.” Howard’s mother was a dressmaker and costumer.
“Back when we started, I’d always keep my eyes open for books for her because [it was an] easy Christmas present, birthday present — she was always looking to expand her library,” Howard said.
“I just built up my collection over the years, and then, when she passed away, I ended up carrying a quite extensive collection.”
The Eloquent Page also sells a diverse collection of journals, which Howard said she’s also built up over the years.
“There’s some really amazing designs out there,” she said.
“I try to carry a little of everything.”