Long time North Country residents were familiar with the overflowing bookshelves and cozy reading nooks of the Corner Bookstore on Margaret Street in downtown Plattsburgh. However, they may not have know that before the store hung out its green awning, the books were carted around in a van. Owner Nancy Duniho drove her “Rambler” around to different towns, parked in shopping centers and sold her books to the curious.
Duniho enjoyed driving around in her van, but in 1975 when she was offered a permanent spot, she rented the space and set up shop. The business ran successfully until 2012 when Art Graves bought and renamed it and Duniho retired. It stayed in Grave’s hands until 2020 when a new Plattsburgh resident stumbled across it and bought it at a perfect time.
Enter Wendy Baker, a proud ninth generation Vermonter, and her husband Rich Redmond, who had decided it was time to wake up on a different side of Lake Champlain and find new careers. She knew she wanted her new endeavors to revolve around education and stories. Baker explained that books were a big part of her life growing up. “I was able to understand more about myself through what I read and understand more about the world.”
Her passion pushed Baker to purse a degree in English and later a career in education as a middle school teacher. “I thought the best way to stay closely connected to stories, and the way they teach things about us and the world, was to become a teacher.”
Decades before Baker purchased the Corner Stone Bookshop, she had already started her used book collection in her classroom. Its back wall was filled with twelve-foot-high shelves of used books for her students.
The focus of Baker’s career in education K-12 and later in higher education (She is currently the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Clinton Community College) has been a love of learning, specifically concentrated around literacy. When this was paired with her other passion for community development, it naturally lent itself to her next journey as a small, community-focused bookshop owner.
Baker first found out about Corner Stone when she came across a December 2020 newspaper article. Since she had just moved to Plattsburgh, she didn’t know there was a bookshop in town. Everything was closed due to the pandemic. When she saw the article, proclaiming Corner Stone Bookshop needed a new owner, she looked at her husband and said, “I have to go. I’ll be back.” He looked at her and shook his head. “Oh no,” he thought.
Baker sped to Corner Stone and spent three hours there. She looked at every book and listened to Graves interact with customers. She was enchanted by the conversations he had with them — about what they were reading, looking to read or seeking gifts for others. She loved how he supported people in their love of books. The feeling that came over her while bearing witness to the bookstore’s magic made her realize, “I want this store to be a part of my life, for the rest of my life.”
Baker and Redmond closed on the store on a Monday afternoon in the middle of the pandemic. For the rest of the week Redmond was on his knees ripping up carpet and dealing with electrical outlets. He built new shelves and installed them. Baker hauled 50-pound boxes of books up and down stairs. Since their opening, the couple has brought in 8,500 new books, which have refreshed the more than 50 collections in the store. To Baker, Corner Stone is not just any bookstore. She remarked, “It is this world of words that you can’t help getting lost in.”
Currently there are over 75,000 titles in the shop, stacked to the ceiling on three floors. Books are packed into every corner. Baker promised, “Whatever your interest is, you can find a group of books that relate to it.”
Many of the shop’s “new” books have been donated by local collectors. Baker believes it is a privilege to walk through someone’s collection with them and be trusted to take good care of them. “Each of those books was hand selected. They have stories in them and many are endearingly inscribed. That drives Baker’s commitment to keep these used books’ multi-layered stories and histories alive and see they get new, loving owners.
The Corner Stone hosts a diverse group of customers daily — from curious children to college students looking for cheap textbooks, to self-proclaimed non-readers. Many people wander in who have not read for pleasure in years, but the vastness of topics presented encourages them to pick up a book. The books – mostly second hand – are extremely affordable for all consumers.
Baker is proud of the small team she has hired. Everyone who staffs the shop came there as children. The staff is dedicated to its success and so are the people who come in.
Recalling her opening day, Baker offered, “Nancy (Duniho) was here observing every change we had made. She had nothing but wonderful things to say. She was so supportive.”
Over the years the community has rallied behind the small bookstore, staying committed to its success. It stands as a tangible reminder of all the stories and memories it has provided. Corner Stone Bookshop is a product of a life-long love of learning and telling stories.
The Corner Stone Bookshop
110 Margaret Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901