A small town business-scape is a unique one, to say the least. Thriving on the symbiosis of interconnected commerce, each locally-owned restaurant, boutique, and bar must find its perfect niche to survive. That is what makes Ellicottville special: the charming brick storefronts lining Washington Street, the outdoor patios, the inviting boutique window displays. We are the siren call to even the most stoic of Route 219 travelers, urging them to stop and smell the roses.
Though some beloved businesses have existed in Ellicottville for decades, there are also those that come and go. With the loss of equilibrium from the departure of the Ameri-Can store, the whole town was thrown for a loop. The newly-vacant space on Ellicottville's main drag, with its paper-covered windows beckoning mysteriously, left locals and tourists alike wondering: “What will happen now?”
After weeks of waiting, we have an answer to the heavily-anticipated question. Enter Scotty McGee, a man with some books and a dream. Looking at a rough sketch (pictured) of what will soon be “McGee’s Books and Curiosities” is enough to inspire a chill of anticipation. With its fantastical name and charming font, the store, though colorless in the image, looks warm and inviting. Set to sell gently-used books, vinyl, and record players, the shop hopes to be a relaxing escape after a long day of outdoor activity. “We want to add to the whole experience of Ellicottville,” Scotty says.
A born-and-bred Houstonite, Scotty was not, by any stretch of word, expecting to end up in a small Western New York town, much less be opening a bookshop there. “When I started college,” says McGee, “I wanted to be a pediatrician. I was majoring in Biochemistry and filling all the Pre-Med requirements.”
While completing his degree, Scotty began business marketing nutritional supplements. At the beginning of his last semester of undergrad, the very same company gave him an opportunity to move to Asia. “A lot of people thought I was crazy,” he says, smiling, “but I withdrew from classes and moved to Asia for a couple of years, continuing to work for that same business.”
“When I got back,” he continues, “a partner and I started a business ourselves. We began teaching other companies how to market their products, as well as offering marketing services. I traveled a lot with that business, and it was while traveling to Maine that I met Rachel Northrup, my fiancée.
Rachel, an Ellicottville native herself, currently owns the Purple Doorknob Sock Shop on Monroe Street in downtown Ellicottville. A local staple, the distinctly colored facade of the building dares passersby to enter, few leaving empty-handed.
“When it was time to get serious with Rachel,” says Scotty, “it made sense for me to move to Ellicottville in 2016. Plus, after buying the proper clothing for the winter, I loved Ellicottville,” he chuckled. “(Being from the South, I learned you have to buy your winter clothes for the North in the North!) I love the community and the fact that I run into people everyday that I have now become friends with.”
Scotty and Rachel had their first child, Easton, in 2016. The following year, Scotty’s business partner bought him out of their marketing company, and the couple found a house in the area. For the past three years, Scotty and Rachel have been content running the Purple Doorknob and hanging out with their son. As a family, they love to be in nature: hiking, biking, and swimming in the pond. When he has time, Scotty likes to hit the golfing green. As the months went by, it seemed that this young and happy life was full to the brim, but it wasn’t, not entirely.
“Rachel and I have always been avid readers,” begins Scotty, “and about a year ago while Rachel was going through a "minimalist" phase, she started getting rid of everything in our house. I decided to clear out our bookshelves by selling the books online before they disappeared, too. After those books sold, I was inspired and started finding other sources for books. Long before this happened, Rachel and I would talk about what other type of store we could open in Ellicottville. So when the books were doing so well online, we started playing around with the idea of selling books in the basement of the Purple Doorknob. But before we implemented it, we found out about a space that had just become available. It was in a great location on the main drag, and Rachel's family, the Northrups, have a history in the building. Her great uncle used to run a millinery (hat store) there, and her grandfather Wilbur "Doc" Northrup, the dentist in town way back when, used to have his office upstairs above it. It all really appealed to her ... and we just decided to go for it.”
After months of preparation, the big day is inching closer arriving. McGee’s plans to open in October, with a big grand opening event scheduled for the first weekend of November. “We hope someday to become a staple in Ellicottville,” says Scotty, “a place people have to visit while they’re in town.”
But for now, Scotty, Rachel, and Easton are working hard to put the finishing touches on their dream. In fact, if you’re looking to get rid of some books or vinyl, the bookshop is accepting donations. Feel free to drop them at the Purple Doorknob or call 716-687-8238 for more information. Otherwise, be sure to stop by 11 Washington Street on opening day, and let McGee’s Books and Curiosities astound and amaze.