Off the Beaten Path Bookstore

Owner Holly Richardson holds a stack of some of her favorite books in her shop Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.
Owner Holly Richardson holds a stack of some of her favorite books in her shop Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

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Julia Eppehimer

“The beauty of being a bookseller is that you don’t have to be a literary critic; all you have to do to books is enjoy them.” So said Christopher Morley in his work, “The Haunted Bookshop,” a piece that inspired Off the Beaten Path Bookstore owner Holly Richardson to open one of her own.“I read a book called the Haunted Bookshop… at the age of 16, and I knew sometime in my life I would have a bookstore,” Holly explained. “The magic, the power that books hold… it just spoke to me,” she shared.It was not a dream that came to life right away. Many years of travel and learning went into making the bookstore in downtown Lakewood what it is today. Holly grew up south of Buffalo in Springville, but at a young age, she set off to see the world.“In my twenties I lived in Montana and Alaska and all over the place,” Holly described. She worked at Glacier National Park in Montana for a summer, and then decided to stay. “I went to community college out there,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”Holly eventually earned a degree and became a teacher, a profession she still holds today. “I teach 10th and 12th grade English in Ellicottville,” she said. “I have two incredible booksellers…they handle whatever needs to be handled so I can do my other job.”But she is more than happy to work fulltime to support her dream of a bookstore. “There’s never a bad day in the bookstore,” she smiled. It’s a place where old friends run into each other unexpectedly, and new friends get together.“So many small towns have little bookshops,” Holly discovered on her travels. “It seemed like the bookstores in a lot of towns were the center, the focus, and it’s where people came and caught up on the news and stayed in touch with people.”She was delighted to bring that atmosphere to western New York. “It represents the area,” she said of her establishment. The shelves are filled with books requested by patrons, as well as stories penned by local authors and used books handed down by area residents. Periodically they host book signings by local authors. A special book signing will take place on Tuesday, August 11 from 1-3 p.m., for two children’s stories, each authored by a twin. The twins will be in town to meet with people and sign their books.Another feature of this particular bookstore is that it shares space with a local coffee shop. About a year after she opened the shop, Holly thought it might be a good idea to bring in another business, so she approached Ryder’s Cup. The added perks of a place to sit and read with a cup of coffee further augments Holly’s goal to be a place where people come together.“Quite often we have people who will be standing at the counter talking to me and someone else will come in, and they haven’t seen each other in 10 years!” she exclaimed.It had been quite a few years before Holly herself returned to the area to reunite with old friends. Family brought her back to western New York, “plain and simple” as she would say. “I always thought, ‘Gosh it’d be great if my family was from Seattle,’” the West Coast fan said. “But they’re not, they’re from Buffalo.” And so she returned to the area.Not that she minds a bookshop on Chautauqua Lake. “I just kept getting drawn to the Lake,” she said, although she lives in Ashville. “And then I found this place right on the lake.” It seemed about time for a lifelong dream to come true. Holly purchased the property and opened Off the Beaten Path in 2009.She had just adopted her son Paul a couple of years prior. “I’m glad I opened the store when I did, because it showed him what hard work and perseverance can do.” Holly stated. Hard work and perseverance can lead to the fulfillment of a dream. And it can build a place where community comes together and reunites.“To spread good books about, to sow them on fertile minds, to propagate understanding and a carefulness of life and beauty, isn’t that high enough mission for a man?” Christopher Morley asks in his book.Off the Beaten Path Bookstore is located at 28 Chautauqua Ave. in Lakewood, just above the lake. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Call 716-720-4917, email, or visit their Facebook page at Off the Beaten Path for more information.