Saturday marks the last day of business for Observatory Books, a long-operating independent shop featuring used and rare books, and antique maps featuring Alaska and the polar regions.
The downtown shop’s longtime proprietor, Dee Longenbaugh, 82, fell ill in April, forcing the business to close. Maps and other items were also taken during a recent burglary.
Longenbaugh’s son and daughters are helping her with a going-out-of-business sale. Store hours are 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. through Nov. 26, except for Thanksgiving.
Longenbaugh started operating a book store in Sitka in 1977.
“I was bored,” Longenbaugh said. “I couldn’t think of any thing else to do, and I was trying to think of what would be a fun occupation. I thought books, of course. I loved books. I’d accumulated books. Why not accumulate more and start a little store?”
After ten years, she moved to do the same thing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. But that only lasted two years. She said she missed Southeast Alaska and her daughters, and returned to set up shop in Juneau.
Longenbaugh said she was always intrigued with maps and the stories they could tell.
“The more you fool with maps, the more fascinating (they are),” Longenbaugh said. “Who first was there? And how did they know what they were looking at? And who made the maps? It’s just all so fascinating.”
Longenbaugh said she picked up a lot of used books from people deciding to sell off books they had owned or books they had inherited.
“Usually, that’d be a member of the family they didn’t really like that much,” Longenbaugh said with laugh as she took on the voice of a potential seller. “‘There was my uncle and he collected all these books, and he never really talked about it. He wasn’t a nice guy.’ Oh, really? Would you like to sell them?”
You can go to the store’s website which features primers on book and map collecting.
Learn more about Longenbaugh and her maps in this story from December 2014: Meet Juneau’s map and book antiquarian.