Gerald Winters picked up a hardcover copy of a Stephen King book from a waterlogged box in his basement, squeezing it and easily folding it in half.
“You can’t do that with a book,” he said, tossing the copy of “The Wind Through the Keyhole,” from the “Dark Tower” series, back into the box.
Winters on Wednesday surveyed the extent of the damage in the basement of his bookstore, Gerald Winters & Son, the day after an underground pipe burst in front of his business. It flooded his basement to eye-level and ruined an estimated 2,000 books, which he feared included some of King’s original manuscripts.
Boxes and memorabilia lay strewn, wilted and stuck in mud, after being sloshed around in nearly six feet of water.
“Watch your step,” he said, balancing on a piece of wood at the back of his basement, where about a dozen book-filled boxes sat soaked.
A little more than a year ago, Winters moved to Bangor and opened his bookstore, Gerald Winters & Son, to showcase and sell his collection of King works and other related ephemera that took him two decades to collect.
He owns almost every single edition of King’s books, including manuscripts, first editions, signed copies and prints in different languages — much of which was stored below his store in his basement when it flooded on Tuesday. He was still tallying the damage, but estimated that seven of King’s original manuscripts were in the basement, and are now ruined.
Winters, who is uncertain what his insurance will cover, estimates his losses, if he isn’t reimbursed, could cripple his business.
“It’s a tragedy,” he said.
King, himself, agreed.
“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”
Winters isn’t the only business owner suffering. Next door, Gene Beck, owner of Nocturnem Draft Haus said he lost about $50,000-worth of alcohol, including 7,000 bottles of beer.
Winters, meanwhile, spent much of day on Wednesday searching his basement for anything salvageable. But very little appeared to be spared by the flood.
At the base of the stairs was a two-person airplane seat from the set of the 1995 miniseries, “The Langoliers,” based on the King novel. It was on its back, wet and caked in a thin layer of mud.
On the ground in an adjacent room, three framed pictures — two showing King decades earlier, and another of Jack Nicholson from “The Shining ” — appeared to have little damage.
Winters sidestepped more boxes, avoiding exposed nails and trying not to slip in the mud. He picked up a first edition of King’s 1983 novel, “Pet Semetary.”
“Oh, geez. I think this one is signed,” he said, opening the cover delicately to find King’s signature on the inside of one of the soaked pages.
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