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@Work: Dockside Bookshop

Jan. 27, 2005 – Sometimes nothing hits the mark like a good book. A narrative that's doing its job can take you to the Shanghai of the 1920s, modern day Baghdad, or anything in between. As you curl up in a chair and crack open a paperback, you're entering territory that will be brand new, or you may cover some old, well loved terrain.
Dockside Bookshop, spread as best as it can over two tiny levels in Havensight Mall, is just the place to go to look for the next best thing to hit your nightstand. Since it first opened in 1978, the store has become something of a St. Thomas institution. The Gjessing family bought the store in 1982, and Jonathan Gjessing has been managing the store ever since.
"I wasn't doing anything else when my father bought it. I read a lot as a kid and didn't want to go back to college," he says. The family business seemed to be the perfect fit, and he began filling the shelves with books.
"We don't specialize in any one thing. We're a general book store so we try to offer something that's in demand," says Gjessing. "We have almost all new books. We don't have a used book section because there's no room. It's small for the number of books we have and the number of books we sell."
The store is indeed cozy–shelves line the walls, reach the ceiling, and are close together. They are packed full of best sellers, romance, science fiction, westerns, biographies, children's books, West Indian literature, cookbooks, humor, yachting books, classic literature, poetry and plays. Upstairs you'll find books on languages, dictionaries, reference guides, legal for lay people, history, African American studies, new age, and just about anything else you might be looking for.
And if you can't find what you're looking for, just ask. Dockside is well staffed, with friendly faces ready to recommend a title or search the well-stocked shelves on your behalf.
"It's one of those things. I don't know how we did it," says Gjessing of hiring his staff. "They have to be into reading books for fun–it doesn't matter what kind of books. It's not easy to teach someone to love to read. It's not really a craft to learn."
Gjessing's personal favorites fall in the genres of science fiction, history, some biographies, and science. But when it comes time to order the stock, he finds he needs to delegate because there is just so much out there to choose from.
Dockside Bookshop also has a wide range of children's books–from classic picture books to the latest Harry Potter, as well as some educational material. In a store that is bursting at the seams with inventory, they've managed to carve out a private little spot under the stairs just big enough for a child to enjoy a book.
Dockside has been at its current location next to Cream and Crumbs Shop for about 20 years. As far as plans to expand the store, Gjessing says he would like to see that happen someday but as yet there is nothing to talk about. "We like to stay in the middle of the island."
Customers who spend $100 receive a $5 coupon, and they can special order most books. Dockside Bookshop is open every day in Havensight Mall.

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