New England Mobile Book Fair, beloved in Newton and beyond for its eclectic book collection and quirky setup, is well on its way of reorganizing the store and computerizing much of its inventory.
The operation has come a long way since it was founded in 1957 in West Roxbury by Lou Strymish, who purchased the inventory and the name used by a woman who sold books from her car.
Now housed in a 32,000-square-foot building, which once housed a tennis racket manufacturer, the store has roughly 200,000 separate titles in its collection.
Pictured is Tanya Gershman of Newton at the outdoor yard sale at New England Mobile Book Fair.
But before settling in its current location, the New England Mobile Book Fair left West Roxbury and moved to Newton Highlands in 1965 to a building now housing China Fair. It was the first retail store on Needham Street.
In November 2011, longtime customer Tom Lyons purchased the Newton Highlands literary landmark despite declining sales.
Now, the independent book store is trying a range of strategies to draw in customers, from holding sidewalk sales to hosting appearances by authors, including Steve Ulfelder (pictured.)
Other invited authors include legendary Boston Bruin Derek Sanderson, who appeared to promote his book, “Crossing the Line.’’
In December, the store played host to 41 local mystery authors. It also held writing and poetry workshops and book-related events focused on gardening, cooking, and local artists.
But unlike other book stores in the Newton area, the Mobile Book Fair can’t count on foot traffic. Most customers need a vehicle to seek it out among the discount clothing stores, eye wear shops, and plumbing supply houses that line busy Needham Street.
The store is enlarging its presence on the Internet, selling books and e-books on its website (www.nebookfair.com), posting book reviews and event photos on its Facebook page, and emailing a weekly newsletter.
Bestselling Author of “Rizzoli & Isles” Tess Gerritsen (center) poses with owner Tom Lyons (left,) and events manager Dave Ambler (right.)
Lyons wants to carpet a section of the children’s room for family events.
He’s also pursuing deals with schools, libraries, adult education programs, and religious groups; inviting student groups in to have the run of the store, with a portion of their purchases benefiting their schools; and putting up booths at conventions, such as a recent Manga comics expo.
Pictured: Winnie, 6, and mom Megan Ulland, of Newton, were on familiar turf at the New England Mobile Book Fair.