Lift Bridge Books manager put local authors in spotlight

By on June 30, 2013

by Kristina Gabalski

One of Joe Hoffman’s projects at Lift Bridge was building the extensive local authors section. He’s holding a book by local reporter/author Tom Rivers. He’s been a familiar friendly and helpful person at Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport for a quarter of a century, but Joe Hoffman is leaving as store manager at the end of June to move out of state with his wife, Linda, and their 4 1/2-year old son, Jamee.

Linda, who has worked as associate vice president for undergraduate admissions at Roberts Wesleyan College, has taken a position at Malone University in Canton, Ohio. Joe says Malone is a Christian college like Roberts, but it is larger. His in-laws also live in Ohio, so the move will take them closer to family.

It will, however, be a time of change for Joe, who says he will be the primary caretaker of Jamee. “It will be an adjustment without structured work hours,” he says. He hopes to stay involved with books, local authors, and perhaps eventually find a position at an independent bookstore.

Joe grew up in the New York City area and came to Brockport to attend college.He loved the village so much, he decided to stay. He has enjoyed his work at Lift Bridge Books because he says he loves “being surrounded by books and by people who love books.”

His focus at the Lift Bridge has been on text books – “they’re a big part of our business” – he notes, as well as on the myriad of events and book clubs the shop hosts – author events, book signings and many other regular and special events.

Those events are also an important part of the business, Joe says, because, “They draw sales and make that local connection. The Lift Bridge is a community-centered business. We do a lot of things that connect us with the community.”

The events also help an independent book store like Lift Bridge to survive, Joe explains, even in the face of competition like on-line sales, e-books and big box stores.

“What allows us to continue is the support of people in the community,” he says. “Our great customer service is reciprocated by peoples’ support.”

Joe has continued to keep a regular shift at the cash register once or twice each week, allowing him to have face-to-face time with customers. “I get to see people who come in and talk about books,” he says.

It’s difficult for Joe to decide what he will miss most about the Lift Bridge.

“A lot of things,” he muses, “…. working with the staff and customers and events.It’s a joy. It’s hard to say good-bye to so many people.”

One of his all-time favorite events was a visit from Peter and Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.

“It happened out of the blue,” he says. “They contacted us through their agent. They had a new book coming out.”

The famous pair played to a large crowd at the Lift Bridge for about an hour, Joe remembers.

“The kids were completely involved. They played a lot of kids stuff,” Joe says.He has a treasured photograph of them singing “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” to his son. “It was a very special event to a lot of people.”

Joe has been instrumental in getting books by local authors on the shelves at the Lift Bridge.

“We have a wealth of wonderful writers in this area,” he says. “I hope they will have the same network of writers in Ohio.”

A farewell reception was held for Joe at the Lift Bridge in mid-June. Archie Kutz, who owns the Lift Bridge with his wife, Pat, said Joe has been with the shop for so many years, it is difficult to appreciate how his leaving will affect them.

“He has touched so many and it’s obvious that he will be missed by everyone everyday,” Archie says. “We are all optimistic that Joe has made the right decision for himself and his family and that Lift Bridge can only be better for all the years of dedication and example he has given us.”

Joe says he’ll have a chance to stop back in and say hello over the next few months on trips between his new home and visits to his family downstate.

His parting words to the community emphasize how important it is that people realize a store like Lift Bridge relies on their support.

“It keeps the money local,” he says. “There are lots of good reasons to support a local store. The community needs to support them.”