first walked into a dusty Grolier Poetry Shop, nestled on tree-lined Plympton Street, when she
was 15 years old.Used books were piled on a couch, along with the store owner's mail.Despite the disarray, she
immediately fell in love with the shop.
"Someday I am going to own this store," she
said to herself."When I told my mother that she
said, be careful what you wish for, you might get it." After owning the store for 31 years, Solano sold the poetry shop on Friday to a philosophy professor at Wellesley College.
The sale ensures that the poetry shop, a 79-year-old Harvard Square institution
that has struggled financially over the past decade, will survive.
THE SHOW WILL GO ON
turned a gathering place for poets and college students into a viable bookstore that now has over 15,000 poetry titles.
"I had to turn into a viable store so I could keep the doors open, and decided to specialize in poetry," she
When Ifeanyi A. Menkiti, a professor at Wellesley College, offered to buy the store from Solano
was thrilled to have someone carry on the store's legacy.
"I thought it was the most perfect match," she
is probably the one person I know who can carry it effectively."
During the past year, Solano
realized that she
could not go on as the single owner and manager of the store.Because of her
fragile health, Solano
was only able to keep the shop open for about four out of the past 12 months, she
"I have epilepsy and it just has gotten somewhat out of control," Solano
doctors said that her
health would improve if she
left behind the stress of her
job."I had to make a choice between my shop and my health.I chose my health," she
The poetry shop is indebted to Harvard Real Estate, according to Solano
, for being extremely lenient in terms of rent.Two years ago she
was afraid she
would have to declare the shop bankrupt.
"They have been absolutely wonderful to me over the past ten years, through all of my various illnesses and accidents," she
fully endorses Menkiti's
goal of broadening the international poetry selection.
intentions are realty exciting.He
is trying to bring in more influences, which is really great," she
, the shop had Saturday afternoon coffee hours when customers are encouraged "to stay around and talk," Solano
LOUISA'S POETIC LICENSE The Grolier Poetry Shop was founded in 1927 by Gordon Cairnie and Adrian Gambet, but Solano took the helm in 1974, when Cairnie died.
was asked to submit several poems for consideration for a memorial book that was made in the late owner's memory, but she
was intimidated by the notion at the time that women could not write poetry.
"When women came out with poetry books, they never got fair treatment," she
said."They were called over-emotional."
sent in several poems to be considered for the book, she
was "too afraid to open to envelope" she
received in return, and her
poems have never appeared in print.
"When I opened [the envelope] 20 years later, they were asking my permission to publish," she
Now that she
has given over leadership of the store, she
wants to write more and maybe finally get published.She
has been asked by many people to write a memoir.
"I might write a very gossipy, fictionalized, novel about the poetry community."She
joked, "I am sure they will make a movie out of it." A member of the Adams House Senior Common Room, Solano has also organized about a dozen poetry readings each semester that are free for Adams residents.
has appreciated every moment she
spent at the shop and in Adams House.
"I have been incredibly happy for these 31 years," Solano
said."It's been a wonderful life.".
TURNING BACK THE CLOCK Born and raised in Cambridge, Solano said she has seen it transformed from a quiet "subdued" city to the touristy commercial center it is today.
"I think Plympton Street is the most beautiful street in the world," she
recalled that places like Grolier's, which encourages discussion as well as commerce, used to be more abundant in the Square.
The cafeterias that used to line the Square's streets were centers for students, artists, poets, and writers to meet and discuss issues of the day, she
One such shop, Bailey's, "made the most delicious hot fudge sauce you ever tasted in your life," she
Of Hayes-Bickford Cafeteria, which has since been replaced by the Chinese restaurant Yenching, she
said: "It was great fun.It was stimulating, you could hang out in for hours.You could always bet that there was an argument going on of some kind."
Across the street from Grolier's was a barbershop."As a teenager, I learned to read the clock backwards because there was a mirror in our store through which you could see the clock in the barber shop across the street," Solano
said. When she became the store's owner, she renovated it to include, among other things, ceiling-high shelves and a clock of its own.
"My only wish," she
said, "is that I had more money so I could have developed it more than I did."