Devaney, Doak & Garrett feature an in-store display of 30 favorite books for every year they've been in business.

Devaney, Doak & Garrett are featuring a display, in-store and online, of their favorite books for every year they’ve been in business in honor of the store’s 30th anniversary. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Bookstore Devaney, Doak & Garrett (DD&G) celebrated its 30th anniversary of opening on Saturday, May 1. Owner Kenny Brechner honored the anniversary with a curation of 30 favorite books for each year the shop’s been in business since 1991.

DD&G is also marking the anniversary with an online “Remembrances” page where patrons of the shop are submitting stories about “a book you got from us some time over the last 30 years which meant a great deal to you.” Patrons submitted titles (and stories about those titles) ranging from Shaun Tan’s The Arrival to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. One patron submitted Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew 01: the Secret of the Old Clock alongside an original review of the book from when it was first purchased.

DD&G first opened in 1991 under different ownership. Brechner, 59, came in as the store manager in 1992 and “fell in love with” running the shop. He has been DD&G’s sole owner since the late ’90s. In that time, he’s made many memories and integrated DD&G into the community’s DNA.

“I love everything about connecting with the community and having these sort of combined relationships with people that are part friend and part customer,” Brechner said. “ I love seeing people from college that I knew as toddlers, sold books to and taught books to their whole lives having kids now.”

A major shift to online book sales in the last two decades has posed “the biggest challenge” for DD&G and other independent bookstores. However, Brechner is “very appreciative of the community members that continue to support us” that have helped DD&G stay afloat. He believes it is that “supportive community” and “a passion for books” that has kept DD&G around for three decades when so many independent bookstores have disappeared. 

Brechner considers DD&G “a bedrock in the community” thanks to the store’s “mission of sharing the love of reading with the community.”

Since the mid-1990s, Brechner and DD&G have worked with the Mt. Blue Regional School District and the Spruce Mountain School District to implement literacy outreach programs in their schools. In these programs, DD&G provides the schools with Advanced Reader Copies, copies of books that aren’t yet available to the public, and gives children the opportunity to read them and review them. In 2020, DD&G continued its literacy outreach efforts despite the complications brought on by the pandemic to continue supporting the community in the way that “the community has been here for us,” Brechner said.

Devaney, Doak & Garrett owner Kenny Brechner stands in front of a display of books about Maine and by Maine authors.

Devaney, Doak & Garrett owner Kenny Brechner has been with the bookstore for 29 of its 30 years in Farmington. Brechner, who is pictured standing next to a display of Maine authors and books, notes a “supportive community” and “passion for books” as some of the factors that have helped DD&G stand the test of time. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Looking back on 30 years of DD&G, Brechner said “the most fun we ever had was the Harry Potter Parties.” In these parties, which were held the night a new book in author Rowling’s series was published, DD&G would host over 100 people at their themed parties. Brechner, his staff, and volunteers would dress up in costumes and run activities such as a “potions class” and “divinations tests.” They even staged a fake arrest where Brechner was dragged off by “ministry wizards who came to take me away and arrest me.”

Brechner also acknowledges the Potter era as a special time for the store and the community of readers, old and young, in Farmington.

It just developed a love of reading in everybody. That’s a favorite, living through [the books] as they came out in the store,” Brechner said. “That was the best. There’s never been anything like that.”

Brechner also reminisced about the “wonderful group” of staffers he’s “been blessed with” over the years.  “A lot of them are still friends,” he said.

One of those former staffers includes Desi Van Til, a Farmington native and screenwriter who worked at DD&G as a high schooler in the mid 1990s. Van Til wrote the film, Tumbledown, that is described as a “love letter” to Farmington with a DD&G replica and a character she says she based on “complete mentor” Brechner and their “great, spirited work rapport.”

“Kenny and his staff are people who love and revere the written word, and who take sincere pleasure in sharing their enthusiasm for books with the whole community,” Van Til wrote. “DD&G helps define what makes Farmington such a wonderful place to live. It certainly made a huge impact on my growing up there.”

Looking to the next 30 years, Brechner hopes that DD&G remains a “bedrock” in Farmington’s “special” and “vibrant” community.

I’d like to be able to make a small positive difference in the community by being here,” Brechner said. “Not just to survive, but to have a positive impact.”

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