By Alex Lippa
---- — When you walk through the main entrance of the Haverhill Public Library, it’s easy to overlook the Friends of the Haverhill Library Gift Shop.
But if you don’t notice it, you’ll miss a taste of the city’s history and culture.
For more than 20 years, the shop — tucked in a corner to the right of the entrance on the first floor — has sold memorabilia showcasing the city. Recently the shop has been beefed up, with more items added to its collection. It has become more than just a Haverhill-themed gift shop.
“We’ve been trying to get some new items in that will get some more people coming through our doors,” said Jennifer Scarci, who volunteers at the shop.
The shop has transformed to sell everything from colonial candles which make a nice housewarming gift to school supplies for students doing homework in the library who may have forgotten to bring a pen or pencil.
The store’s bread and butter remains items which primarily show off Haverhill’s past. The memories of Colonial heroine Hannah Duston and poet John Greenleaf Whittier are prominent in the store, with miniature statues of Duston on display and several of Whittier’s books on the shelves.
“We get people who love history and who are writing books that need materials in here,” said Suzanne Davis, another volunteer at the shop. “They’ll come in and pick something up for reference.”
Scarci said the shop fills a niche that had previously been empty in Haverhill.
“If you need something that says ‘Haverhill’ or you need some history about Haverhill, this is the place to come,” she said.
Scarci and Davis are two of several volunteers who donate their time at the shop. They are members of the Friends of the Haverhill Library, a group which raises money to go towards the library. All profits of the shop go directly to the library.
The Friends also make calendars each year, as well as hosting events and book sales. There are more than 350 members of the Friends and they contribute more than $30,000 to the library each year, organizers of the group said.
The store is also working on more items to add to its collection. The next project is gathering “scenes of Haverhill” and putting them on note cards to create post cards in addition to ones already sold there. Scarci said the goal is to use historic images which can create nostalgia for former Haverhill residents who visit the shop.
The store currently has Halloween-themed items, such as glow-in-the-dark glasses, as the spooky holiday approaches. In November, the store will start to prepare for the holiday season with Christmas tree ornaments and other items. In 2009, during the city’s Shoe-La-Bration, which celebrated the history of shoe manufacturing in Haverhill, the Friends created shoe ornaments and sold them in the store.
The Friends have lots of Haverhill history in their store, but their challenge is making sure people don’t just walk right past the shop.
“We have people that use the library all the time, that never come in here and one day they’ll just stop in and say, ‘Oh I didn’t know you were here,’” Davis said.