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Bookstore in Manassas Plans Renovations to Historic Building

Prospero's Books needs a new coat of paint.

After extensive repair work on the mortar in the brickwork of Prospero's Books, owner Gary Belt is going to repaint the exterior of the historic building next. 

Though the coat of paint will closely match the original shade of paint, the renovations still must be approved by the Architectural Review Board. 

"He's committed to keeping this building here on this corner and having it look good," sales manager Bob Chase said. 

Named after a character in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero's Books houses about 93,000 volumes, about 4,000 of which are rare or out of print. The rare books in good condition are sold on the internet. 

"The king made Prospero the Duke of Milan," Chase said. "When he made him the Duke of Milan, he gave him a small library. He was quoted as remarking, 'I would give up my dukedom before I would give up my books.' And that's how we feel.'"

Chase persuaded Belt to buy the building. Belt, who hadn't read a book in 20 years, is now "up to his ears in Roman History," Chase said. 

The store has an extensive collection of military, American, and Virginia history, with local Prince William County volumes at a counter near the front. But it also features children's literature, travel books, religion and philosophy, and trade paperbacks. One room in the back is filled entirely with military fiction from one widow in town.

"We support all the local authors with their book signings," Chase said. 

Prospero's Books used to be RW Books. The building has been there for 102 books, and the original floor and ceiling are still intact. It was originally a fine men's clothing store, and some current customers bought their first suits there. 

Though Chase calls it a "burnout job" for many, it's his retirement job, and he loves the time spent among the books. Loves it so much, in fact, that he and his wife have spent the last five wedding anniversaries at the shop, opening early and sending all other employees home. 

To learn more about Prospero's Books, visit prosperosbooksva.com.

Cindy Brookshire April 23, 2013 at 01:02 PM
Prospero's and Bob Chase are great supporters of local writers. To celebrate William Shakespeare's birthday (today!) and World Book Night 2013 (tonight!) members of Write by the Rails are gathering from 2 to 4 pm today (April 23) at Grounds Central Station in Old Town Manassas for coffee and story telling (story spinning). Everyone is encouraged to buy a book at Prospero's or any of the stores in Old Town and give it away as part of World Book Night's mission! http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/books/2013

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