The first time Gregory Maguire visited The Open Door Bookstore & Gift Gallery on Jay Street in downtown Schenectady he knew he was in a special place.
“I was either in high school or my first year in college, and for a kid from Pine Hills in Albany to take a trip to Schenectady was an exotic venture,” said Maguire, whose 1995 novel “Wicked” was turned into one of the top Broadway musicals of all time in 2003. “For me it was a real ‘Go West, young man,’ kind of adventure.”
Maguire said his first trip to The Open Door was nearly four decades ago, around the time Jay Street was being turned into a pedestrian mall in 1984.
“I loved the joss sticks, the paisley throws and the scented candles,” he said. “It wasn’t a head shop, but there was a counterculture vibe on Jay Street that was as close to Haight-Ashbury as I was likely to get. The place was a little edgy, a very interesting neighborhood, and I just fell in love with The Open Door.”
Since his first official author visit in 2001 for his novel “Lost,” Maguire has made seven more trips to the corner of Franklin Street and the Jay Street pedestrian mall for various book-signings at The Open Door. The most recent came in December of 2015 after the release of “After Alice.”
“For a while I felt like I was going there just about every year,” said Maguire. “It was a regular stop, one of my favorite ones, and the atmosphere hasn’t changed.”
Included in all of Maguire’s signings are all the major book chains throughout the country, but he does have a soft spot for the small independent stores such as The Open Door.
“If you’re going to make any kind of living writing books you have to go to all the big places, but I have a special affection for all the independents,” said Maguire. “They are special, and Open Door is one of my favorites.”
Maguire thinks his first trip to The Open Door as a teenager was probably back in 1982 or ’83, around when owner Janet Hutchison was getting started there.
“Janet wears her welcome on her shoulders, like a mink stole — when that was more acceptable,” said Maguire. “She’s always greeted everyone that I’ve seen with the broadest and one of the most genuine smiles I’ve ever come across. When you go into a small bookstore you’re hoping to be enchanted and to make a personal connection with someone, and she does that. She’s interested in what you’re looking for, she answers all your questions and she does it with grace. It’s a ministry for her.”
Maguire thinks his first purchase at The Open Door nearly 40 years ago was Maurice Sendak’s “Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must be More to Life,” first published in 1967.
“I had some designs on being an illlustrator, but then I thought I’d concentrate on language rather than my ability with pen and ink,” said Maguire. “I loved Sendak’s work. He produced stuff that was appropriate for third- and fourth-graders, but it spoke over their heads at times to us college kids. Those are the kinds of books that places like The Open Door offer.”
Maguire’s most recent book, “The Brides of Maracoor,” volume one in a three-part series called “Another Day,” was published just last month.
“I’m sure if it wasn’t for the pandemic I would have been there again,” he said. “It was like a designated stop on all of my book tours.”
A look at author Gregory Maguire’s many visits to The Open Door Bookstore, and the books he was supporting at the time:
November 2001: “Lost”
October 2004: “Leaping Beauty” and “Hachiko Waits”
November 2007: “What-the-Dickens” and “The Story of the Rogue Tooth Fairy”
December 2008: “A Lion Among Men”
December 2009: “Wicked” — Maguire spoke at the Karen B. Johnson Library and signed books at The Open Door before the national touring production of “Wicked” opened at Proctors.
November 2011: “Out of Oz”
November 2014: “Egg and Spoon” December 2015: “After Alice”