By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It’s easy to think of the balcony at Square Books as Oxford’s front porch.
On any given day when the weather is tolerable or above, patrons and guests of the world-renowned store may be drinking coffee, taking photos and having talks from casual conversations to deep discussions.
It’s a favorite spot for Oxonians to watch Christmas parades, Fourth of July parades and the passing parade of humanity.
Overlooking the Square, that balcony has hosted book signings for such literary luminaries as Willie Morris, John Grisham, Larry Brown and Barry Hannah. Owner Richard Howorth noted in a recent blog on www.squarebooks.com that it was there that Josephine Humphreys declared, “This must be the center of the universe.”
“[A]t least three weddings and numerous marriage proposals have taken place here,” Howorth added.
As the balcony has been Oxford’s front porch, now it can be anyone’s – in small measure. Renovations mandated by new city regulations include new flooring, so the old decking is being cut into nine-inch-long mementos.
“We are offering for sale pieces of this history, the Square Books balcony, for $5 each, partly in an effort to recover some of our cost,” Howorth said.
Each piece is numbered and comes with a certificate of authenticity.
“They’ve been going like crazy,” said Zach Tutor, who was working as cashier Friday. “People have come in and said they’re going to build stuff, like little displays.”
The sale was introduced on Facebook, and by the next morning more than 40 orders had registered online. By Friday, pieces were being numbered at the cash register in the upper 200s.
“It’s more than we initially expected, so Richard had to run down and hand-saw a bunch,” manager Lyn Roberts said with a laugh. “So the first people who ordered not only got a piece of Square Books, but they were personally cut, by hand, by Richard Howorth.”
The renovations will keep the balcony closed for another week or so, but store operations have continued uninterrupted.