Stone Blvd. (?) Saratoga Springs, NY
This shop, more than any other I’ve visited in my life, has me torn about my experience. On one hand, you have a large selection of used books in pretty good shape that are one dollar each. This could be a goldmine for the right person. Dollar books are no joke for bookworms and there were some major deals on those shelves. But on the other hand, my experience at the Saratoga $1 Book Warehouse left me feeling…well, to put it mildly, a little unsettled.
The shop is situated near a very busy area of Saratoga/Wilton, just up the street from the Wilton Mall, a bunch of box stores like Home Depot, Target, Hannaford, Barnes & Noble, and a bunch of restaurants and fast-food joints, right off the Northway’s Exit 15. But when you follow the yellow signs for $1 books down a gravel road, it quickly feels like you’re a long way off from civilization, even though it’s just a couple hundred yards. The shop is in a large barn and series of connected buildings, tucked out of sight from the main road. I went early on a Saturday morning and my car was the only one in the dirt lot outside the barn, despite the “Open” sign in the window.
Signs, I should note, play a big role in this shop. Signs and cameras are basically your clerks, because there was no staff here at all. And be warned: no outside books or bags are allowed in the shop, and they only take cash – correct change only. Before you enter you’ll see a book recycling/donation bin with a sign stating they “do not want” your books. Not unless they were in perfect shape. I get the need for quality books instead of junk, but the wording in this and many other signs within felt oddly stern.
The first room you enter is very small, though chock full of books. There’s a desk near the door with a sort of lockbox bolted to the counter with signs instructing you to show your books to a camera and then insert your money. I've been to other shops where you pay on the honor system, but this felt different somehow. Maybe it was all the others signs reminding you that you’re on camera everywhere you go, that you’re being watched, that if you steal books your image will be posted on a wall, etc. There are also signs promoting some sort of health insurance company you can sign up for right there, which felt really random. I guess the owners have their fingers in a lot of pies. The signs had a strange, vaguely accusatory tone to them, like I couldn’t be trusted and they wanted me to know it. And just the fact that you’re alone in a barn out of sight and hemmed in by silence and on camera with who knows who watching you—it just made me uncomfortable.
The next room was a longer room with a musty smell to it, the sort you’d find in a barn, of course, but it gave the room a close-off feel. There were lots of books to sort through, mostly hardcovers, some older, but many from within the last 30 years or so. I saw some I definitely would have bought had I brought cash with me, which I regret. They’re all out of order though, with sports, mystery, kids, thriller, biography, history, sci-fi, gardening, and so on all piled in together on shelves or in plastic tubs. This can be fun sometimes, the kind of shop where a book finds you instead of the other way around.
There was a door at the end of the hall, and at first glance I wasn’t sure if more books were behind it, it just said EXIT. I pushed it open and found a larger barn area, un-insulated, gravel-floored, and stacked with more books of the same type, organized in the same way. I would have lingered longer if I had cash, but even so, the whole experience being totally alone in someone’s barn surrounded by somewhat passive-aggressive signs and cameras kept nagging on me. It felt weird, isolated. Granted, I had been listening to a podcast about famous murders and serial killers on my drive up from Albany, so I was primed and ready to be creeped out! Maybe this was all my fault!
Anyway, I left empty-handed and actually drove to the Barnes & Noble store a quarter mile away just to be around people again. I was a bit jittery afterward and I feel stupid saying so now, but at the time, it was just an odd experience. But the owners are probably lovely folks for all I know, and I’m sure people have had a great time there, so I’m not saying don’t go—I’m saying don’t go alone, with no one else around, after listening to murder stories all day :)
Atmosphere — A barn at the end of a gravel road full of books, cameras, signs, but no staff. You’re being watched while you browse Big Brother style, so no stealing (obviously).
Quality — For used books, they were actually in nice shape. Many veered older (last half of the 20th century) but there were nicer newer titles too, and some mass markets in okay shape.
Quantity — There were a lot of books here but not as many as I expected from the pictures posted online. You’ll be browsing a while though, if you’re up for it.
Diversity — It’s hard to pinpoint what variety of topics they cover since all the books are mixed together, but it looks like a usual amount of fiction, biography, picture books, nonfiction, sports, kids, etc. With some DVDs too.
Affordability — VERY affordable. This is the big reason to go, as you’ll load up on books at $1 each.
Amenities — None. No chairs, coffee, etc.
Location — The shop has a couple different addresses online, but if you drive along what Google Maps calls “NY Route 29 – Truck” you’ll see yellow signs. Follow them down Stone Blvd, past a bunch of new apartment buildings into a back field behind the barns.
Customer Service — No staff, just cameras and signs. It felt really weird. It made me realize how much I like having staff around. The interaction is definitely something that makes a book hunting experience unique and special.
Overall — I’m sure if I brought cash and a friend this would have been a blast, since there were a handful of books I’d have picked up for $1 easily, but between the no staff, the signs, the cameras, the quiet isolated feeling, the sense of being watched but not knowing by who, the genres all mixed together, my murder podcasts, all of it made my trip felt very strange, to the point where I left feeling kind of unnerved. But the books are so cheap that I’d go back, just with a lot of cash, and definitely with a car loaded with friends.