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Maria's Bookshop to Remain in Family Ownership

Maria's Bookshop to Remain in Family Ownership

Photo by Cole Davis
Peter Schertz and Andrea Avantaggio are excited to announce their son Evan is joining the family book business at Marias Bookshop, and the for sale sign at the shop has come down.

Evan Schertz, son of Maria’s Bookshop owners Andrea Avantaggio and Peter Schertz, has joined the family ownership of the independent bookstore. Evan is a Durango native and graduated in May from the Colorado School of Mines.

“I grew up with this bookstore,” he said. “I’m very excited to step in to learn all I can and lead Maria’s Bookshop into the next chapter.”

Many customers were dismayed to hear the bookshop was up for sale, but now are pleased it will remain not just under local ownership, but family ownership as well.

“It seems to be a collective sigh of relief,” Peter Schertz said. “Finding the next owner within our family is extraordinary. While we have, of course, dreamed about family ownership of the business, we weren’t sure the timing would work out or the interest would be there.”

Photo courtesy of Maria's Bookshop
Outdoor books and maps make this downtown shop a required stop for local outdoor enthusiasts, as well as visitors getting ready to hit local rivers and trails.

Evan said like a lot of Durango kids, he wanted to get out of town as soon as he could after graduating, but after spending years in Golden to obtain his degree, he realized that returning home and joining the family business could be a good option.

“It’s been in the back of my mind for years now,” he said. “I wanted to be sure it’s what I want to do. I’m very excited about it.”

While looking forward to training her son in the business, then taking some well-deserved time off, Andrea said having her son come on board “just seems like the best possible outcome. It keeps the shop close to home.”

Peter and Andrea don’t have a specific timeline for staying around at the shop, and Peter said when it’s time for them to leave, he thinks he’ll recognize it.

He’s ready to backpack and travel, and she wants to read the stacks of books that she’s accumulated over the years. First, she has to train Evan as a bookseller, something she said she hasn’t done before because it takes a time commitment, and her son was busy in school. He did work in the back of the store while growing up, and she’s looking forward to showing him the inner workings of the business and to introduce him to more of the community, as well as industry professionals.

“Evan is passionate, smart and eager to learn,” Andrea said. “The future is bright for Maria’s Bookshop and Durango.”

Photo courtesy of Maria's Bookshop
Andrea Avantaggio and Peter Schertz, owners of Maria’s Bookshop

Evan said he’s looking forward to learning the ropes of running the business, talking with customers, and working with the current employees.

“I have no intention of making big changes,” he said. “I’ll be learning what works, see areas where we might need some small changes. I want to rely on the guidance and support from our staff and our customers to help me find successful ways to continue to grow this business.”

While taking his mechanical engineering degree and translating that to selling books has some shop customers scratching their heads, Evan said it’s actually a good fit.

“I’ve got that question a lot,” he said with a chuckle. Mechanical engineering “is so broad,” he explained. “It’s mostly a study of figuring out how things work, how systems work, and how they work together. When I think about analyzing how a business runs, it makes a lot of sense really. It’s critical thinking – that’s what I’ve learned.”

Maria’s has been around so long it fostered its own book, “The Story of a Colorado Bookstore” by John Peel, who wrote the shop opened in 1972 as The Bookshop. Andrea bought the business 21 years ago from her boss, Dusty Teal, after working as a bookseller at the shop. A video of the shop’s history is on their website at www.mariasbookshop.com.

Photo courtesy of Maria's Bookshop
Books, gift cards, maps, puzzles and toys are popular gifts for Durangoans to buy at Maria’s Bookshop.

“It’s kind of my whole grown-up working career,” Andrea said of purchasing the store in May of 1998, adding that she’s joked with her son that he’s following in her footsteps, except she waited tables before starting work at the shop.

Peter said he’ll miss some aspects of running the business, but there are some he’s ready to pass on to his son.

“We’re just expressing our appreciation for the community,” he said of the vote of confidence in the family business. “Stores like this do not thrive everywhere. The support of the community has given us the success we enjoy, and we hope that will continue.”

Added Andrea, “It’s a great way to make a living and be connected to a community.”


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