If you are an inveterate booklover or casual browser of books, Selkie Books in Rock Hall is well worth a visit, not only for its maze of rooms stacked ceiling-high with books or its popular series of author readings but for a congenial chat with its owner, Marta Kumer.
Kumer and her partner, commercial crabber Kelly Crouse, moved from Fell’s Point, Baltimore to Rock Hall three years ago after dozens of visits to the Eastern Shore and deciding that the small maritime port was perfect for Kumer’s lifelong dream of having a her own country bookstore, and for Crouse to continue his livelihood as a commercial crabber.
Twelve truckloads of books later, Selkie Books was founded and described as “Rock Hall’s Old-fashioned bookstore on the Old Post Road (Rt. 20)—and Undine’s Cottage for Art and Rare Books.” And it lives up to its description,
Selkie Books does feel like an old-fashioned country bookstore. Without its signage, the two-story cottage could be mistaken for someone’s residence. That’s part of its charm and how Kumer expresses her love for books and the community that has come to know and embrace her.
It’s been a lifelong goal.
“I had my first lending library when I was seven or eight. I’ve always loved books. But I never did anything with it. My career was in computers and working for the Federal Government. That’s why I have an old-fashioned bookstore because thirty years of computers was enough,” she says.
Living above the bookstore, Kumer says that after years of commuting from Baltimore to Washington, walking downstairs to the shop is the easiest commute she’s ever had to make.
And downstairs is a haven for book browsers. Among Selkies’ 6,000+ used and new books, local artists’ work, and tables offering cookies for her dedicated “gentle readers” and new visitors, over eighty Eastern Shore writers, artists and consignors are also on display.
Kumer not only promotes her regional authors and artists by carrying their books, she takes no profit from their sales. In turn, authors and artists have been supportive of Selkie Books and have spread the word, and the shop has become a stopping-off place for many of the community residents.
Don’t let the shop’s quaintness fool you. The wide trellis across the front of the shop does have an Alice in Wonderland on The Bay hint about it, but the interior offers a surprisingly rich selection of new and rare books, collectible maps, art, prints, and photography.
Selkie Books is also a popular forum for author readings.and are a significant part of the Selkie experience. In one recent November reading, authors Nancy Taylor Robson and Sue Collins discussed their book OK, Now What?—A Caregivers Guide to what Matters to an engaged audience who recognized the importance of conversations about care during end-of-life and hospice experiences.
An upcoming event planned for December 2, 2-4 pm is the Fabulous “Singing Captains” in Undine’s Cottage. All Selkie Events are free, open, and “come with” complimentary bubbles and nibbles!
But beware, Selkie Books is the kind of place you’ll browse for a few minutes only to discover you’ve missed everything you planned for the rest of the day.
Although Kumer is camera-shy, the Spy interviewed her and explored the charming cottage shop on Rock Hall’s outskirts.
Selkie Books is at 6202 Rock Hall Road, Route 20, Rock Hall, MD. Contact (480) 430-4692 or [email protected] for more information.