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February 8, 2024

A Belgrade Lakes bookshop will move to downtown Waterville

Courtesy / Colby College Renee Cunningham, owner and founder of Oliver & Friends Bookshop, plans to open the new space in April at 150 Main St. in Waterville.

Oliver & Friends Bookshop, a growing business in Belgrade Lakes, will soon pick up shop and move to Waterville.

Renee Cunningham, owner and founder of the bookshop, plans to open the new space at 150 Main St. in April. It will be in the Main Street Commons.

Oliver & Friends opened its Belgrade Lakes location amid the pandemic lockdown, with a soft launch in June 2020 instead of a grand opening.

“I started the process in 2019,” said Cunningham. “I had always had this sort of pipe dream to open an independent bookstore, and the time was now.

"I got to the point where I was either going to do this, or I was not going to do this. I started the process of my buildout here in Belgrade Lakes. Despite everything, I could commit to getting my doors open about a month late due to the lockdown and made it through the first year of the pandemic and into normal business times.” 

Courtesy/ Colby College
Oliver & Friends Bookshop, currently in Belgrade Lakes, stocks a variety of titles and other items.

Cunningham told Mainebiz that she decided to move her operations to Waterville because the growth in the business wasn’t where she wanted it to be. If she wanted to continue it, she would need to be in a bigger market. 

“While it was wonderful to start my business in Belgrade Lakes, it’s a very seasonal area, and the next chapter for Oliver & Friends Bookshop requires more consistent business throughout the whole year so we can continue to grow and move forward,” said Cunningham.

“As I started to talk to people about where I might move my shop, Waterville kept coming up. Then I saw the emphasis on the arts and humanities in the city and it quickly became very clear to me that Waterville would be the new home for the bookstore. It really felt like the perfect location.”

As part of the Main Street Commons, a residential facility that houses Colby students, faculty and staff, Oliver & Friends will occupy approximately 950 square feet of the ground floor.

“We’re extremely pleased to have Renee and her shop occupy the Main Street Commons,” said Brian Clark, Colby’s vice president of planning and strategy. “It’s a great addition to downtown Waterville and another example of creating an ideal Main Street that’s evolved into a real destination due in large part to the wide range of dynamic small businesses located there.”

Cunningham said the space is being designed and fitted out. The new store will be about a half hour's drive from the original location.

“It is really important to me to take what I built here in Belgrade, which is a very cozy and welcoming environment, and bring it to Waterville," said Cunningham. "I want my existing customers to walk in and feel like this is Oliver & Friends Bookshop, our store. Right now, my space is bright and cozy. I wanted to design a space that was just someplace I would want to be in all the time."

The bookshop will carry books for all ages and, in the future, hopes to host traditional author signings, book club meetings and story time sessions. It also carries greeting cards and fun book items.

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