BANGOR, Maine — Downtown Bangor’s newest addition will be part museum, part private office and part store dealing in rare books and memorabilia from famous authors — including a vast selection from Bangor’s most famous resident.
Gerald Winters, 44, is preparing to open Gerald Winters & Son on Main Street in the storefront that was formerly home to Bottles & Cans in downtown Bangor’s Standard Shoe Building. He hopes to open as soon as possible next month.
“I’ve been selling privately for probably 18 years, but never publicly, never like this,” Winters said during a recent interview inside his shop.
Winters — a former computer programmer who has worked for Procter and Gamble, the stock exchange, and the U.S. government — bought his first rare book at a Sotheby’s auction in New York City in 1998. He was hooked. Now, buying and selling rare books, manuscripts and letters is his career.
He was raised in Australia, went to school in New York City, and has lived in Japan, Ireland and Thailand, among other places. In each place he’s lived, he’s acquired books. His collection, which he estimates exceed 5,000 books and other materials, has been in storage in locations across the globe, and he’s working to get the collection to Bangor.
Winters will be displaying rare books, letters, proofs and manuscripts from a range of authors — Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, J.D. Salinger, James Joyce and others. He’ll also have affordable items, such as used paperbacks, movies and other memorabilia for sale. He’s also planning to start a weekend Tolkien reading group to get children interested in the “Lord of the Rings” author’s work. He ran a similar program for underprivileged children while he was a graduate student in New York City, he said.
“At least if they’re here, people can come in and see them,” Winters said.
The storefront also will serve as a base of operations and out-of-home office for his selling and buying of items, Winters said.
Winters, his wife, and their 2-year-old son recently left Bangkok, where his wife’s family runs a business that sells pharmaceuticals and seafood, and set down roots in Bangor. Winters said the family decided to move back to the states because they didn’t want to raise their son in Thailand, and settled on Bangor after seeing it mentioned on a “top places to raise your family” listing. Winters, who has no Maine ties, recognized it as the home of one of his favorite authors — horror novelist Stephen King.
That clinched it. The Winters started settling in Bangor in April. Winters had visited Bangor about a dozen times over the years to buy or sell rare King items from Bangor residents and the former Betts Bookstore, formerly owned by Stu Tinker who today runs King-themed tours around town.
Winters struggled with reading as a young man, but when he was 26, he picked up a copy of “The Stand,” a post-apocalyptic fantasy novel published in 1978.
“I devoured it,” Winters said. “I read it in a week.”
He started reading more, collecting more.
“He’s been a big influence in my life,” Winters said of King. “Probably of my favorite living writers, he’s the biggest in the world.”
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.