After 35 years behind the counter and between the shelves at Galapagos Books, Hastings resident Amada Abad will close her store’s doors at the end of April.
Galapagos opened in 1987, under the ownership of Susan Lindsay, as a dedicated source of foreign language books, something previously found only in New York City. Abad, a native of Ecuador, was on staff from the start, and bought the business with her husband, Alan Murray, whom she met while working at Galapagos, in 1998. More than two decades later, Abad determined that it was time for her to say goodbye.
“What is sad about the store closing, what I hear from people, is that something is dying,” Abad said in a recent interview. “And I say, ‘Nothing is dying,’ but then they say it’s coming to see and talking to somebody. And telling their stories. Because everybody comes and tells you a story, you come to know, and I tell them my story, and we laugh. So, that’s the memories, and that’s what it means to me to have this wonderful store and see how people have enjoyed it.”
In addition to selling books in myriad languages, Abad used her role at Galapagos to introduce a series of book signings, featuring local authors such as Caldecott Award-winner Ed Young of Hastings and Hans Christian Andersen Medalist Peter Sis of Irvington.
“I started having the book signings with local authors. First, one with Ed Young, then another, then three, and as word got around, I did it around Christmas… it became the Christmas gathering, so the authors themselves would recommend other authors. At one point I had 30 authors at the community center,” Abad told the Enterprise.
“My idea was to celebrate the authors’ talents, and it wasn’t just to come and sign,” she continued. “It was done in a way so that there was time for them to get to know each other, and also the community, and be part of the celebrations… It was to bring the authors together. And as the events, the years went by, I saw the authors, they became part of the store, and how happy they were to have formed a bond.”
Abad’s contribution to Hastings did not go unnoticed, not only by customers, but also by Village officials. As part of the March 31 “Words on Hudson” event at the James Harmon Community Center, Hastings Mayor Niki Armacost told the assembled crowd that March 31, 2023 would be Amada Abad day in the village.
In an April 3 conversation, Abad shared that she had never dreamed of owning a business like this.
“I always say that I was born in ‘The Spine,’ so, the Andes,” Abad said. “And I wouldn’t even call it a town, because it was no town, so we had no books. The nearest school, it would be impossible to go to, probably. So the first book I saw was when I was 10. It was one picture book, I think it was a dictionary because it had the ‘A,’ it had the ‘R’ with a rose, I remember. And I always liked to study. I always had this thirst to study, and so I had the opportunity to come here, and never dreamed that I would work in a bookstore.”
Even though her childhood wasn’t steeped in books, Abad’s father would tell her folktales like “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” “Hansel and Gretel,” or selected stories from “Aesop’s Fables.” That exposure spurred her to expand the store’s inventory to include children’s books once she bought the business. In addition to giving children the chance to learn, Abad said the expansion allowed her to do some light reading while working at Galapagos.
“I could read [children’s books] in the store; they were short. I couldn’t read a novel, having a business, because you couldn’t concentrate. I would start thinking about all the bills I have to pay,” Abad said.
While Abad’s initial plan was to close the store at the end of March, she told the crowd at the community center that she would keep Galapagos open for one more month. After that, Abad plans to travel and to return to the myriad plants that she keeps in her home. Abad cares for tropical species inspired by her native Ecuador and keeps a pair of Bird of Paradise plants that were featured in the 2009 film “It’s Complicated,” starring Meryl Streep.
“They’re huge… I had to divide them, but the pots [the plants are in] are huge. I have to have two men come and put them out every spring, and then bring them in every autumn,” Abad said.
While she has no shortage of post-retirement plans, Abad will leave behind what she called “The place where I come and I talk to my friends, and I talk to my customers. Talking to the customers is what I’m going to miss. It’s so wonderful to talk to the people, and [on March 31] there were some people I hadn’t seen in many, many years... I would say it was a beautiful ride.”
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