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Community Supported Books At Sag Harbor’s Canio’s Books: Reader’s Paradise - For Your Eyes Only

Kathryn Szoka and Maryann Calendrille at Canio's. (Photo: Bernard Gotfryd)

In our present age of immediacy, along with the convenience of purchasing just about anything online, a disconnect may exist between customers and those who own, manage and work at the local shops in their communities. Perhaps you have found yourself visiting with less frequency those places where, to coin the "Cheers" tagline, everyone does know your name.

Canio Pavone, who founded Canio's Books in Sag Harbor in 1980, was so taken by the village setting as described in a book written by local and well-known author, playwright and artist, Joe Pintauro, that he visited the community, found an available space and opened what is considered, by not just locals and regulars but visitors alike, to be a fantastic bookstore, and which has become a favorite stopping point during any Hamptons stay. Featuring "New and used literature, fiction and non-fiction, children's books, art, poetry, and history, plus books on cooking, food, the environment, nature and spirituality" there is something to catch the interest of all readers.

Canio's Books has been owned and operated by writer Maryann Calendrille and photographer Kathryn Szoka since 1999. However, how does one keep those shelves stocked? Well, Canio's Books officially launched a Community Supported Books program in the spring of 2016. The program, designed to combat the anonymity of Internet sales, allows members to set up an account for a nominal fee. Those fees, in turn, allows Calendrille and Szoka to purchase current, requested, desired and sought after books that will keep the member returning again and again. Similar to establishing a charge account, the customer replenishes their account when depleted, and is offered certain incentives, such as discounts, and having requested books specially ordered.

In 2009, the two women established Canio's Cultural Cafe. The popular 501(c)(3) not-for-profit Cafe hosts "Lectures, workshops, seminars and other public forums that include a diversity of artists, writers, educators, independent scholars, students, and community members who might not otherwise be heard." Workshops in writing and photography, along with "environmental and spiritual community courses" are also part of the Cafe offerings. Additionally, Szoka has expanded Canio's Gallery to highlight local artists as well.

Calendrille explained the Community Supported Books program as "A sustainable exchange. Customers supply 'seed money' and we provide 'food for thought.' We've based this on the very successful and important model used by community supported agriculture (CSA). The community invests in a venture that has lasting benefits for all involved."

When asked how the community has responded to this clever and innovative idea, Calendrille offered, "Our customers got it right away. They thought it was great. Here on the East End, the CSA concept is well established, so when the CSB comes along, folks said, 'Yeah, that's great. I want to sign up!'"

In a village that is also home to a treasure trove of literary superstars, a Community Supported Books program seems like a rather logical, prudent and exciting way to keep getting books immediately into the hands of those readers, who do appreciate being greeted by name, and where knowledgeable owners truly know, appreciate, encourage and obtain the genres of books they know their customers most enjoy reading.

Canio's Books is located at 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 631-725-4926 or visit www.caniosbooks.com.

Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.

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