On a typical day, Barry Caplan, owner of Sundance Books, can be spotted sporting a band T-shirt, bright colored shorts, sandals, a long ponytail and a matching beard.
While he takes pride in his hippie look, Caplan knows that this is not the image the college community originally wanted to give off. After being in Geneseo for 37 years, however, Caplan is as much a part of the community as anyone else.
Born in Brooklyn, Caplan grew up loving to read. As a child, he dreamed of opening up a bookstore and reading all day. In 1971, Caplan got his first taste of Geneseo when he came to visit a friend in Livingston County. He then decided to travel the country to find a town to open his bookstore in.
However, he soon realized the town of Geneseo was in desperate need of a bookstore. His first store was opened in Geneseo in 1972, but was lost to a fire in the fall. Come January, Caplan reopened the store in Al "Buzzo" Bruno's basement.
After buying the current building with Buzzo and spending the first three years reading every day, Caplan realized that he needed to sell more books. It was then that he was asked by a few art history professors to get textbooks for their classes.
After helping the faculty out, Caplan saw the potential in the field and started buying back students' books. Each semester, he would receive and sell more and more used books. What started out with books in only three subjects eventually bloomed into the textbook outlet that students know today.
"We owe everything to Buzzo," said Caplan. He was taught by Buzzo, the "leader," to sell books to students at a consistently cheap price and hope that they come back. His success relies solely on word-of-mouth.
Caplan said he loves working in this college town because it brings him youthful energy. The father of three, who disclosed his age as "younger than 58," enjoys being around students, along with his staff of alumni hippies because he can continue to act like a kid. Even though he will be close to retirement age shortly, Caplan said he hopes to be around for a long time, along with his store.
"This community is something we built," he said. Although advancing technology is starting to leave textbooks unnecessary, Caplan said he doesn't think he'll disappear anytime soon.
The campus store was also originally Caplan's idea, formed 10 years ago. He wanted to create a college community, bringing different stores on Main Street into the College Union. The store was located in the bottom of the Union, where the mailroom is today.
The store has gone through different owners, as the college had contracts with Follet, Sundance, and Barnes and Noble throughout the years. The entire time, Sundance was able to operate on its own.
With regard to the current textbook situation, Caplan said, "We look forward to shining over our competition."
After spending 37 years in Geneseo, Caplan and his crew have gotten the flow of the town and the textbook business. Caplan said that business is a little slower this year, with freshmen not knowing any other option besides the new campus store, owned by Follett.
Aside from this, there are students who have been committed to Sundance for as long as they have been here; these are the students who are keeping the store alive.
Despite increasing competition, Caplan is optimistic about the state of Sundance Books. "We know how to tread water," he said.