Cats and Cookies Await at This Oddly Named Rural Bookshop

Cats and Cookies Await at This Oddly Named Rural Bookshop

Orson, Down in Denver's resident cat.

Why you should care

Because Down in Denver is not in Denver, which only adds to its cool quirkiness.

There’s only one Down in Denver bookstore in the U.S. and it’s located in the world’s only Stephentown (or so says the sign on the way into town). But Stephentown is not in Denver, and this quirky bookstore, run by a Scottish transplant and her perma-pouty cat, Orson, is actually situated in rural, Berkshires-bordering New York state. On the outside it doesn’t even look like a bookstore.

Yet step inside the 1848 violet-colored, wood-slat building and you’ll be charmed by bookish details like the signs made out of Scrabble tiles (one gives directions to the creaky second story), quote bowls to dip into and vintage typewriters with which you can type out your own message.

But why the name “Down in Denver”? While geographically misleading, it does have some logic to it — the founding owner, Dan Lorber, was a huge fan of the Beat authors, and took the name from a Kerouac quote. When current owner Louise Hendry took over the store in 2015 on a whim — within weeks of hearing about the opportunity, she’d packed up her car and her cat and began the drive north to Stephentown — she decided to honor Lorber’s fanaticism for the OG hipsters (Hendry’s own words, slightly paraphrased) by continuing to stock the store with all of the Beat titles.

What you won’t find are tea and coffee nooks or square-footage-consuming loungers taking up valuable real estate.

Of course, there are lots of other books. Writer and patron Robin Catalano says that the small store has really “managed to stuff [itself] to the gills” with an eclectic, well-curated mix of titles.

What you won’t find are tea and coffee nooks or square-footage-consuming loungers taking up valuable real estate. “That armchair is not paying my electricity,” quips Hendry, saying she’d rather fill that space with an extra 400 titles instead. It’s the bookselling that pays the bills, after all, even if she does sell most titles (which are more “vintage’ than “used,” she tells me) for $1 to $5 each.

Even so, “people shouldn’t come looking for something in particular,” warns Hendry, who hand-picks each book, combing estate sales for texts, from best-sellers like James Patterson novels — plus other titles that she dubs “airplane reads” — to the more intellectual titles that make up the majority of the inventory. Hendry carefully notes title and genre requests from her regulars, keeping an eye out for books that might be of interest to them.

For those who can’t make up their minds, there are boxes of brown-paper-wrapped books, each with a cryptic clue about the contents jotted across it, for $2 a pop.

“There’s used bookstores like us around the corner [in every town], you just have to look for us,” Hendry tells me as we wrap up our chat. But c’mon, how many used bookstores offer freshly baked cookies on the weekends and have an Instagram account starring a cat named after Orson Welles? I’ll wait.

GO THERE: DOWN IN DENVER

  • Location: 874 State Route 43, Stephentown Center, New York, 12169 Map
  • Hours: Open daily 8 a.m.–8 p.m.
  • Pro tip: After stocking up on books (and Instagram-worthy photos) at Down in Denver, hop over the border to the Berkshires for a weekend getaway.

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