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Bristol bookstore expands offerings

BRISTOL — “Have you ever played an instrument?” said Melissa Hernandez, proprietor of downtown Bristol’s secondhand bookstore, Recycled Reading of Vermont. “I tell everyone, you can play a song in 30 seconds.”
Hernandez, who recently expanded the store’s offerings to include a variety of handmade music instruments, seemed unfazed when her question was answered with a “No” — she simply took down a three-stringed acoustic instrument called a “Strumstick” and demonstrated a foolproof way to pick out a tune.
In expanding her store’s selection, Hernandez aims to bring her love of folk music to her customers. The Strumsticks, which are her most popular option, hang next to crafted hand drums and other acoustic string instruments like door harps.
“I thought it was a great fit for Vermont, and for Bristol,” Hernandez said of the Strumstick. “We have a lot of wonderful musicians in this area and I just wanted to provide what people were looking for.”
This Friday, Nov. 16, Hernandez plans to host the area’s first Strumstick circle. She is also expanding her hours this winter in order to stay open for once-monthly jam sessions on Friday evenings beginning Nov. 23.
“We’ll go as long as people want to hang out and play music,” she said with a laugh.
In the past, Hernandez’s store has twice hosted “Last October,” the Waitsfield-based folk and acoustic duo that won local acclaim for its self-titled debut album, released last year.
In one of the pair’s previous performances at her store, Hernandez recalled the two played outside in front of the shop, serenading downtown Bristol with a live concert.
“They are tremendous,” she said.
Hernandez’s love of music goes back to her adolescence in her native Virginia, where she was part of a folk music society.
“We had some tremendous people,” she remembered.
Hernandez moved to Vermont a decade ago with her husband and felt at home in the area’s thriving music scene.
“I am just completely floored as to how many musicians live in this area. Guitar and fiddle and banjo, it’s amazing,” she said.
She has eight years of experience selling books, and eight more years in music retail. Recycled Reading of Vermont, which has collections of used and new books, CDs, and now, musical instruments and supplies, now pays homage to both.
Hernandez is mindful that, as a small business, she needs to take it slowly. “Each month I order just a little bit more,” she said.
She has begun carrying strings and other supplies so that area musicians can restock locally when they need to tend to their instruments.
“It’s going to take a little time to get the word out,” she said. “People don’t usually think, ‘I need strings, I’m going to go check the used bookstore.’”
Upcoming events at Recycled Reading of Vermont include a Strumstick gathering on Nov. 16, a jam session on Nov. 23, and Susan Reit playing folk harp on Nov. 30, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

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