WINTHROP — Apple Valley Books, a colorful, friendly, knowledgeable centerpiece of Winthrop’s Main Street for almost 21 years, has closed, leaving the area without an independent bookstore that deals in new books.

“There was nothing like it that lasted that long,” said Rita Moran, a co-founder and co-owner of the business for 19 years. Moran left her partnership with Eric Robbins about two years ago. Robbins, who closed the bookstore about two months ago, could not be reached for comment.

The colorful yellow-and-blue storefront at 121 Main St. now leads to an empty space with empty bookshelves. Moran owns the building and she wants to sell it.

“I sincerely hope to find a good buyer, someone who will bring life and business to Main Street again,” she said. “We saw two generations of kids growing up with a local bookstore.”

Moran and Robbins opened the store in August 1994.

They sold new books and specialized in locating hard-to-find books for buyers. They also offered a 10 percent discount on book prices.

“We would have local artisans put their crafts out on display on consignment,” Moran said.

With the closing of Apple Valley Books and Mr. Paperback in Augusta, the only full-service bookstore in the Augusta area is Barnes & Noble Booksellers in The Marketplace at Augusta. In Waterville, there’s the Children’s Book Cellar on Main Street and in Farmington, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers is also an independent store.

In recent years, online book-buying from markets such as Amazon.com has eaten into bookstore sales, as have electronic books downloaded into devices such as Kindles and Nooks.

“Rita and Eric ran that bookstore for quite some time,” Winthrop Town Manager Peter Nielsen said. “The closure of the business is unfortunate and they will be sorely missed. Over that time, many of us have come to know them as friends. We wish them well.”

Nielsen said not all the news in Winthrop’s business district is negative. He said three new businesses have opened recently — a jewelry store, a children’s clothing store and a cafe.

Christine Heckman, of Monmouth, a frequent customer of Apple Valley Books, said she’ll miss the store.

“There’s a multitude of things that make it not as easy to sell books as it used to be,” Heckman said. “It was such a convenience. I could say, ‘I want this and this and this on a Tuesday and he would get them in by Friday. Now I have to go to Portland or Brunswick if I want an independent bookseller.”

Heckman said Robbins also would find her books that were no longer in print.

“He always promoted Maine authors, which I appreciated,” she said.

Heckman blamed competition from large retailers for the demise of local small businesses.

“Longfellow Books in Portland does a very good job of ordering books and getting them, but they’re in Portland,” she said. “It’s too bad that so many indie bookstores and indie toy stores and indie restaurants are going by the boards. There’s too much competition from the big chains.”

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