Alda Pool cannot imagine a greater purpose in life than what she’s doing in her later years.
Pool, the 66-year-old co-owner of The Book Scene on West 43rd Street along with business partner and longtime friend Cathy Stringer since November of 2015, had envisioned owning her own store almost since she can remember, and that dream has finally come to fruition.
Pool learned to read by spelling words out for her grandmother (who was blind), and a passion was born that could almost never be fully quenched.
“She would tell me the words for me to spell out, and that’s how I learned to read—after that I just developed a love for books. I was never without something to read, and it just grew from there,” Pool said.
From crosstown treks to the old Heights Library as a young girl, to working under The Book Scene’s previous owner – who she has known for more than 30 years — beginning in 2013, Pool was never without a novel in hand. Then, in early 2015, a door opened.
“Eventually [the former owner] decided to retire to spend more time with her family, she asked if I wanted to buy the store. I wanted to, but didn’t know if I could afford it, so I passed it around to some friends,” she said. “I always went to her store and bought her books, so it was perfect. I didn’t know the business, but I knew the book store, and as I worked with her I learned a little bit of the business.”
Pool and Stringer had worked together at Exxon since the 70s until retiring in the early 2000s, had traveled together, and gone to book conventions together long before The Book Scene was even an idea. Additionally, Stringer had always looked to break into the business world — so the stars were aligning.
“Our lives have always been very intertwined — she likes a lot of the same things and books that I do. We read different things, but we have the same passions,” Pool said.
A dream come true
So, a partnership rooted in friendship blossomed. However, though she had cursory business knowledge, Pool quickly discovered — with Stringer’s help — that owning a passion and owning a store represented completely separate ideologies, especially considering her seniority.
“It’s really been an eye-opening experience for an older senior person — I’ve had to learn on the go, and it’s a scary experience. Cathy and I are responsible for this,” she said. “But we have a greater love for the people who come into the store — that’s really what it’s about.”
Simple as that—people invigorating people. Right or wrong, today’s perception of the older adult may be that they want to simply retire, and wait for life’s hourglass to run out—but not Pool.
“I like people. I’ve always been a talker, always been a reader. You meet people who have the same passion for books that you do—you talk books, you talk about life; you talk about anything,” she said. “Owning a bookstore, every person you meet is like opening up a new book — everybody who comes in has their own story to tell. We truly feel welcome in the neighborhood. The people I meet make this worth coming in every day. I get emotional sometimes, because it’s like one big family.”
Pool’s joy Tuesday afternoon in helping customers was evident and infectious, her passion unbridled — all seemingly a product of being in the perfect place at the perfect time.
“I’m living my dream, so it doesn’t really get better than that. There’s some reason this all fell into place and seemed meant to be,” she said. “Maybe something else is in the pipeline — I don’t know, but there’s some reason that I’m supposed to be here at this point in time. I’m where I wanted to be years ago, now. I’m doing what I wanted to do.”