Tiny Raccoon – Like “Cheers,” Only with Books


Tiny Raccoon Books owner Daniel McGowan (left) shares a laugh with regulars Rob and Donna Verbeck of Sayville.

Bernice Corbin had ripped out a New York Times book review on “The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder,” by David Grann. Corbin often does that of titles she wants to read. Voila! A Facebook posting heralding Tiny Raccoon Books and its opening in Sayville lured her right in to the Railroad Avenue storefront. She bought Grann’s book.

Corbin was holding “Killers of the Flower Moon” on a recent Sunday afternoon, a new purchase. “I love bookstores,” she said. “And I love books. I’m thrilled the owner is selling the Sayville Village Improvement Society coloring book.”

Tiny Raccoon Books Owner Daniel McGowan’s nod to local authors and books was a yippee! moment for Corbin, who is president of Sayville Village Improvement Society (SVIS). Now a regular, she mentioned McGowan’s Oct. 27 book talk, “Historical Haunts of Long Island: Ghosts and Legends from the Gold Coast to Montauk Point,” by Kerriann Flanagan Brosky. “I’m definitely bringing my grandson,” she added.

McGowan’s clean, 875 square foot space with its over 4,000 used and new titles next to the Iron and Tread Barbershop and Shave Parlor and right across the LIRR train station has been reeling them in since he opened in April.

That includes Rob and Donna Verbeck of Sayville. “We’ve been coming since the beginning,” said Donna. “Before you officially opened,” emphasized Rob. “I was biking past and your door was open.” The couple comes every week. “Isn’t it enveloping?” asked Donna sweeping her arm across the space.  “There’s light. It’s open. Lots of books.” “It’s like `Cheers,’ but with books instead of beer,” Rob added.

McGowan was asked if his shop was becoming a community hub. “I would say so,” he said. “I get regulars but also quite a few drive by and say `I saw you had a book store.’ Almost everyone has said Sayville hasn’t had one for a while.”

There was practically a funeral when the beloved Runaway Bay Books, a longtime staple, closed years ago. “I want this to stay,” declared Frank Oliva of Bayport who likes westerns and mysteries.” He was paying for another Paul Coelho tome.

Most who frequent the bookstore are drawn to fiction and also local writers; McGowan carries 24 of them. There was a whole shelf of Charles Panati’s books. The cover of “Panati’s Parade of Fads, Follies and Manias,” was positioned prominently on one. Panati, from Sayville, a former science editor for Newsweek, has written for many publications. He’s written for television and appeared on many talk shows. “Links: The Terrifying Life After Death Thriller,” is his recently revised book.

A reader since he was 3, McGowan’s mom took him to bookstores when there was a preponderance of them. He dabbled in selling used books in college and had other jobs. Nearing 50, McGowan wanted to do something he loved. So, he opened Tiny Raccoon Books.

Business hours are Wednesday to Sunday starting at 11 a.m.  “The first hour and a half it’s moms with strollers, runners cooling down,” he said. “It picks up between 1 and 2 p.m. and then right before closing at 7 p.m.”

There were at least two calls asking where he was located during the hour-long interview.

McGowan’s book talks are popular. At his official opening over Memorial Day weekend, Brian Heinz, a well-known children’s book author, who slogs out to far-flung locations to write his gorgeous nature books, was the featured speaker.

Rob Ottone and Jim Chambers, two horror authors, were also big hits. Ottone wrote “The Vile Thing We Created,” Chambers penned “On the Night Border.” There were readings and a Q & A.

Donna Verbeck interjected. “I’m not a horror fan,” she said. “But they were so engaging. They spoke about how they came up with ideas.”

Tauno Bilsted was next. He was scheduled to discuss his novel, “The Anatomist’s Tale,” the following week. McGowan said he has three authors scheduled for August. There’s also a robust LGBTQ+ section.

Arielle Goetz, another regular who freelanced for Newsday, biked over. Goetz said she reads every genre. A Stony Brook School of Journalism major, “I’m on a kick of reading Pulitzer Prize books or finalists,” she said. “I read 30 books a year.”

Does McGowan get stories himself from customers?  “They talk to you as if you’re a bartender,” he said, standing by a table that had “Demon Copperhead,” by Barbara Kingsolver, “The Lost Boys of Montauk,” by Amanda M. Fairbanks and “How to Resist Amazon and Why,” by Danny Caine. “It’s gossip. Funny stories.”

Tiny Raccoon Books is located at 277 Railroad Ave, Sayville (631-577-5644).