LANGLEY — Moonraker Books in Langley sails into its 40th year this weekend as owner Josh Hauser continues to navigate the waves of fortune.
Hauser, who began the bookstore in June of 1972 with her recently deceased husband Glenn, said that she has utterly enjoyed the ride.
“I’m going for distance and not for speed,” said the petite and pretty Hauser, reminiscing from her perch behind the counter at 209 First St.
Indeed, holding the place of honor as one of the oldest businesses in downtown Langley (The Clyde Theatre owners have also been in business for 40 years) shows a good deal of stamina for any store, particularly an independent bookshop in a world of big chains, online booksellers and e-readers. Hauser’s friends and fellow merchants will celebrate accordingly with an official toast at 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 15 during the Second Street Market festivities and sponsored by the Langley Main Street Association. Mayor Larry Kwarsick will even declare June 15 the official “Moonraker Day” in Langley.
Hauser said when she and Glenn first landed on the island from Southern California, they weren’t sure what they were going to do. He had been a military pilot and she knew she could use her wits.
“I can read!” Hauser said she kept thinking out loud, and besides being able to command an air wing, Glenn was good with tools.
“It was a very benign time to start a bookstore,” she said.
After a “for sale” sign went up in the window for the building on First Street, the couple snapped it up and transformed the dumpy structure into a warm and sunny enclave for book lovers. They also owned what was a liquor store next door, but eventually sold that.
“If I had gone to the American Booksellers School I would have been out of the business in six months, because their idea of a bookstore was to have 20 employees,” Hauser said.
Instead the young couple did it all themselves, including the interior carpentry thanks to Glenn.
The Moonraker name has nothing to do with James Bond, and everything to do with strategy.
“We didn’t want a name that tied us to selling books,” Hauser said, in case the book business didn’t fly. So they took a nautical name. Moonraker is a small, square sail set above a skysail on a sailing ship. They thought it an appropriate name for a store in a seaside village, no matter what it sells.
Nancy Welles was glad it was books. She strolled onto the Langley scene in 1977 and said the Moonraker was the first place she stopped. Ten years later she was employed by her favorite shop and said she’ll probably be there until they carry her out.
“You have to have a passion for this business; it’s a labor of love. And we are dear friends, of course,” Welles said of working for Josh and Glenn for the past 25 years.
Being a presence there for so many years has also given her insight into why the business has survived so long.
“Josh has an ability to make the customer feel like her best friend. She has always had a great sense of community,” Welles said, “Plus she’s the cutest girl in town,” she added with a smile.
The LaRue sisters agreed.
Denise and Michele LaRue are also longtime business owners of the First Street clothing shops, Big Sister and The Cottage, and good friends of the Hausers.
“Josh was my very first friend when we moved here in the spring of 1975,” Denise LaRue said.
“I was working for the Oaken Bucket antiques and in those days we’d be sittin’ on the stoops in our overalls waiting to see who would hit town,” she said.
Denise called Hauser Langley’s “good will ambassador;” the one who would welcome all the new business owners to town.
“They also had a great sense of humor. Upstairs in their attic window they had lettering that said ‘Tuxedo Rentals,’” Denise said, laughing.
Michele, too, remembers she and husband Les Dunner befriended Josh and Glenn immediately.
“She’s everything that makes Langley great. The businesses are driven by the people who own and run them,” Michele said.
“First you must love talking to new people and sincerely win them over as a friend for 15 minutes or a lifetime. Josh does this easily with everyone she meets. Langley would not be Langley without The Moonraker. It’s because of the spirit of both Glen and Josh, with their charm and enthusiasm for books and people, and, of course, they’re wonderful manager Nancy and the whole crew, who make The Moonraker a very welcoming place to visit,” she added.
As it turns out, choosing books was a good idea.
Hauser and Welles said that they hear folks talk about the value of having a local independent bookstore in town and that they’ve heard people say that they moved to the South End because of it. What’s even more unusual is that the Village by the Sea manages to have room for two bookstores; Gregor Rare Books on Second Street has been around for 25 years.
“It’s pretty hard to remain a small book vendor,” Denise LaRue said. “Josh is a good buyer; she’s got a great personality and she’s great at customer service.”
Personality, enthusiasm and charm are some of the words repeated again and again about Hauser, and the merchants of Langley will make some noise on Friday to show their appreciation.
“It’s always been fun. I’ve always loved it,” Hauser said.
Michele LaRue and Jennifer Todd will lead the community in singing “Happy Birthday” to Moonraker Books and to Hauser, whose birthday is June 18.