Dan and Debbie Sullivan have been at the helm of The Oasis Books for 11 years now, and have seen the down town area of Stoneham go through a fair bit of changes. “A lot of the more unique businesses have left Stoneham,” Debbie said. “There used to be a natural foods store and consignment stores and mom and pop stores.”
Debbie said that the secret to their survival is that they are unique to Stoneham and the surrounding towns. “There aren’t any book stores in the towns around Stoneham. Borders Books going under helped a lot, and Barnes and Nobles has converted their approach to a front list store that sells ‘what’s hot right now,’ games and toys and has shifted their focus from the books. So it’s pretty cool when they call us looking for a book we have.”
“When we opened, there was a bookstore in each of the towns around us,” Dan said. “We really don’t think of ourselves as a Stoneham bookstore, but one for the surrounding towns and communities. When it comes to having material for schools or summer reading, we take all of the nearby towns into consideration.”
“We have people who come down once a month from New Hampshire and people who come up once every two months from Rhode Island,” Debbie said. “Plenty of folks visiting from Ireland especially buy tons of books from us because it’s so hard to get American authors over seas.”
The couple got into the field 20 years ago by flea marketing. Their personal tastes in books made for a plethora of excess inventory. Dan is a history reader with a focus on the Civil War, while Debbie is a mystery/science/forensic thriller buff. “One of the best feelings is knowing what a customer likes to read and being able to recommend something the end up loving,” Dan said.
The store has an entire room dedicated to non-fiction, best sellers, classics, teens and children sections and more among the 40,000 books they have. “We have entire sections of shelves dedicated to each important genre and interest,” Debbie said. “True crime stories really spiked with the whole Whitey Bulger story.”
They team up with the library and the schools with author events and theater events. “When you get little two or three year olds who came in when we opened and watch them grow up, you get to see them grow up from the Magic Tree House to Kerouac and Vonegut,” Debbie said.