My local newspaper, the Albany Times-Union, ran an article today on a local legend of sorts, Frank Hodge, who has successfully operated the independent bookstore, Hodge-Podge Books, for the past 27 years.
Written by Chris Churchill, it begins:
ALBANY — By now you’ve heard the story, because there’s no shortage of funereal tales about the closing of a yet another independent book, video or record store.
You don’t need a newspaper to tell you that losing such enterprises is a blow to a city’s cultural life, another step toward a blander and more homogenized future. That’s pretty obvious.
So for this story about the June 30 closing of Hodge-Podge Books, let’s focus on the positive. Let’s avoid the hand wringing and consider instead the accomplishments of its 78-year-old owner.
First off, Frank Hodge opened the children’s bookstore in 1982 and kept it open for 27 years, making it an institution, of sorts, and one of the oldest of Lark Street stores. During its tenure, Hodge-Podge gained national esteem.
“Those of us that love children’s books know of the independent bookstores around the country that have great reputations,” Franki Sibberson, a teacher and librarian in Dublin, Ohio, said in an e-mail. “Frank Hodge’s reputation for knowing children’s literature goes far beyond Albany.”
For the complete text, begin insanely clicking right now.
Faithful readers of this blog — and aren’t you all? — may recall that I previously wrote about Frank here, explaining how I put him in a Jigsaw Jones mystery, The Case of the Ghostwriter. In fact, even his cat, Crisis, played a minor (but cuddly) role.
Book people, from editors to librarians to readers, quite possibly know of Frank without any help from me. He remains a singular character in our shared community of children’s books. The article concludes by stating that Frank is threatening to blog at this site. At this point, I think Frank is lining up his ducks, closing the store, sweeping out the closets. He hopes to be blogging by the end of July.
So let me be among the first to roll out the red carpet. In the meantime, Frank’s little store (I keep hearing Paul Simon’s, “My Little Town”) will be open through June, and I hope to swing by. To me, he’s like that long-lost relative you never see often enough. Time passes and you think, I really ought to visit Frank. Well, now I really ought to.
Last comment: I mentioned to my son, Gavin, almost 10, that Hodge-Podge was closing. “Oh, no, I love that place!” he lamented.
“Really? You haven’t been there that often,” I said.
“He gave me the first Wimpy Kid book — for free!” Gavin explained. And that’s typical Frank. He knew how to make friends for life.
The trick? Shove a good book in their hands.