Michael Esposito, the youngest of six children, is not your ordinary kind of guy. And, by his own admission, he is not what one would call a very outgoing person.
“I’m not very high-tech,” says the lifelong Logan native. “I don’t even have a cell phone or a computer.”
What Mike does have is a law degree that he apparently doesn’t need, and a book store operation on Stratton Street in downtown Logan. It is his absolute love for books which caused him to open the store to serve the public. “I just love books,” he said, explaining that he started the book store with many books and magazines that his mother had kept over the years. “She never threw anything out. So, I got a lot of old stuff. Some things are over one hundred years old.”
Although the store contains mostly books, there also can be found CD’s, DVD’s, and VHS material, and old phonograph albums. “I have a lot of material some people might be interested in,” says Michael. “We’re kind of a part bookstore and part library.”
Barbara Osborne, who Esposito describes as his volunteer worker, helps most days at the location, which once held the offices of the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. The building, currently owned by Logan businessman Mike Ferrell, can more notably be recalled as the Coney Island restaurant, which was operated for years by Mike Chryssofos, who originally emigrated from Greece and settled in Logan County and opened the once popular eatery. The last occupant before Esposito was former Logan attorney Phil Amick.
Like Chryssofos, the Esposito name is one that certainly did not originate in Logan County as the Esposito family also was the result of immigration in the early years of the 20th century when coal mining brought many people from all walks of life to Logan County. His grandfather owned and operated a store at Mt. Gay. The building was built in 1937 and was only razed within the last two years after being hit by numerous floods over the years.
“I remember being in the building and never being able to leave when it flooded,” explained Esposito. “My father wound up closing the store and becoming a teacher. My grandfather died in the early 1960’s.” Vito Esposito, Mike’s father, would later in life become the principal at the old Logan Junior High School, which also has been razed, and was located at the East End of Logan.
“My dad loved books and my mother loved magazines, “he says with a smile. “I always watched my older brother take books with him to school when I was really young. I knew even then that books were important.”
Mike said he remembers the old Logan Woman’s Club Library, which still stands on Main Street and is now more commonly referred to as the “Chafin House,” because it was once owned by notorious Logan County Sheriff Don Chafin, who donated the house for the library. Chafin, of course, is widely known for his exploits in the Blair Mountain Battle of 1921 in which miners marched toward Logan and Mingo counties and were halted by Chafin and his men at Blair.
“I would get a book from the library on a Friday and read it by Saturday, so I could get another one for the weekend,” Esposito recalled, pointing out that he thought there were still many books left in the old library that now sits empty, slowly fading away.
Mike, who says he would never throw any book away, accepts books from persons who wish to donate them to his store. “I’ll take anything. Not long ago, I took an old accounting book that was 30 years old. There have been several nice people donate books to the store.”
The store itself is brightly painted and, somewhat like the Hot Cup Café in Logan, also presents itself almost as a hidden treasure when one enters its domain. There is featured a “Kids’ Room”, which quickly is identified by young visitors to the store, and Wi-Fi also is available for those who might want to drop in just to browse at a book or magazine.
“There is nothing for the kids in Logan to do,” Esposito said. “There are no taxicabs in Logan either, and the elderly people need some kind of grocery store opened in town. Most of the people here depend on the Dollar General Store or Logan Exxon for their groceries. It’s sad.”
While Logan certainly is not the bustling place it used to be—when the sidewalks would be filled with shoppers and others who visited daily—there are those who are trying to inject life into the town. Besides the store known as the Stratton Street Book Store, there also is Sue’s Bible Book Store that is located on Dingess Street.
Michael Esposito, who says he likes “to keep technology to a minimum,” but doesn’t know why, realizes he’s not going to become wealthy at his bookstore. However, as the old saying goes: “Money isn’t everything.”
“Business is slow, but I love it when somebody leaves here with a book,” the former Logan attorney said with a smile.
The store is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.; from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. on Sundays.
“But, I usually get here earlier and I open then,” Mike said.
It is clear that Michael Esposito gets much more out of a book than just words. However, the one word that seems to apply to the former Logan attorney is—happiness. And for him, happiness is contained in operating a small town bookstore.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.