New Ashland bookstore forged by fire and love

Hermeticus Bookshop opened in Ashland in November. Paul Huard photo
March 20, 2022

Former Talent institution reborn in Railroad District

By Paul R. Huard for Ashland.news

Paully Fox and Richard Miller know something about rising from the ashes — and they have the bookstore to prove it.

Calling it a “reincarnation” of a Talent bookstore destroyed in the Almeda Fire, Fox and Miller opened Hermeticus Bookshop on Nov. 9, 2021, at a B Street storefront in Ashland, steps from its intersection with Fourth Street in the Railroad District.

Richard Miller, Paully Fox and Peaches staff the Hermeticus Bookshop. Paul Huard photo

They have divergent backgrounds. Miller is a self-described “ex-hippie” who spent years living in San Francisco. Fox worked in public education as a children’s early intervention specialist in Colusa County, California.

But two things brought them together: A love of books and lives upended by the catastrophic wildfires of recent years.

Fox lost her home due to the Camp Fire that burned through Paradise, California, and the surrounding area on Nov. 8, 2018. She lived in Mexico with her son while rebuilding her life.

Miller spent six years at the original Talent location for the bookstore, which not only housed his inventory of books but also paintings by local artists. It even served as his home.

He escaped the Almeda Fire with his life and two boxes of books. For a time, Miller was forced to live in his automobile.

A mutual friend introduced the couple. What Fox called “an amiable relationship” soon developed.

“We were purified by fire,” she said. “It was our destiny to meet.”

Miller said friends donated many of the books for the new store. Local artists are also displaying paintings there.

“I was surprised at how many people missed the other store and how much they really loved it,” Miller said.

Wander into the Ashland store and you will find the owners chatting with customers or reading a book. Their dog, Peaches, a mixed-breed rescue dog, greets people who come in to browse.

On Saturdays, the store holds tarot card readings from noon to 3 p.m. Readings are free, but donations to the card reader are gratefully accepted.

Fox and Miller said used bookstores are a dying breed. Miller said up to two-thirds of the stores in the region have shuttered due to competition with internet sales.

Hermeticus Bookshop

469 B Street, Ashland

360-982-0504

10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday

But actual brick-and-mortar bookstores have both charm and certain advantages, the duo said. You can browse in a bookstore and enjoy the physicality of a book before you buy it.

“You might not know what you are looking for until you come in,” Fox said.

Miller described Hermeticus Bookshop as a “general bookstore,” with an inventory that includes bestsellers, classic literature, children’s books, and metaphysical literature. The store also buys used books and offers trades.

“When you go into a bookstore, you make a discovery,” Fox said.

The used-book business is competitive, but Miller understands the realities of the trade after 50 years in the business.

“You have to make an adjustment,” he said. “You have to keep prices low. The other adjustment is to have only really good books.”

Selling used books might be a challenging business, but the couple love their store and their customers.  “It’s not even work,” Miller said.

Email freelance journalist Paul R. Huard at paulrhuard@gmail.com.

Artist, woodworker and book collector Paul Kramer of Talent, on ladder, created the “Used Books” sign for Hermeticus Bookshop, replacing one destroyed by the Almeda Fire when it burned the used bookshop’s old location in Talent. Assisting in the installation is Bob Hodgson of Ashland Lumber, himself a book enthusiast. Jack, the dog, also makes an effort to get involved. Ron Adams photo

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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