Just a few steps from the Block Island ferry dock, Island Bound Bookstore has sold books and art supplies, hosted great national writers and made sure there were always Jolly Ranchers in the candy dish. Owner Cindy Lasser loves that “parents can park at the store and the kids can come in by themselves”; you don’t see that in many mainland stores. For 21 years she has watched those children grow both in age and in the titles they read, a rare, special experience for a retailer. Her husband Paul is a seasoned captain who pilots one of the island ferryboats. Standing in front of her store, she can watch him walk from the stern steering station, forward to the wheelhouse, as the ferry leaves the harbor.
“When he is at the stern station,” Cindy says, “He turns to see if I am in the door so he can wave to me.”
In addition to managing shelves stocked with more than 500 titles of varying genres and styles, owner Cindy Lasser has enjoyed the company of several great visiting writers. Walter Cronkite visited and hundreds lined up to meet him and shake his hand. “They all left looking at their hands as if they had touched royalty. And he had those crystal blue eyes that we were unaware of because off all the black and white televisions.” Swordfish boat captain and writer Linda Greenlaw signed books, as did Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci. Cindy says, “Buddy was just was so much fun, we just laughed and laughed and laughed.” Frank McCourt and Eric Larson, writer of Dead Wake and In the Garden of Beasts also sat with customers before spending the night on the island. Cindy and children’s author Jane O’Connor even donned fancy boas and gave away nail polish in the theme of her beloved Fancy Nancy series.
Many small local bookstores have not survived the age of big box retailers and internet goliaths, but Island Bound has and is thriving, partially thanks to some diversification, like its painting classes. Cindy hosts classes throughout the year, often three nights a week, so people can learn from many of the island’s talented artists, including Bill Padien and Cindy Kelly, in a very casual environment. Summer classes are busy and popular; the winter has a different feel. “It’s a big cocktail party in there during the winter painting nights. We’ve never ever had a class where someone didn’t drink the water that was meant for the paintbrushes.”
Considering all those good years, the great writers and painters and a glass dish never empty of Jolly Ranchers, although no one knows why grape is always the last to go, Cindy has decided to sell Island Bound, saying it’s simply time for a change. Looking back on her many years behind the counter, she first counted the time with her husband. “We have been married for eight years but we have been waving for 12.” Fantastic.