Just Imagine Turns the Corner
Chelsea store moves to Main, and more into music
by Shelley Daily
From the June, 2014 issue
Next door to Chelsea Bakery, William Harris--owner of Just Imagine, a book, toy, and music store--is strumming a guitar while he chats with a customer. At the end of March he moved his business, which he opened four years ago on Middle Street, to the space vacated by Back to the Roots cafe. The move gives him about a third more space and just enough time to expand for the summer season--"summer is important in this town," he says.
"I had to do something--we were the only retail around the corner, and we just weren't getting the traffic," Harris explains. And, he adds, "I love this space." Children's toys, games, and gifts fill the front of the store, with books toward the back. His music business has grown from a "sideline" to more of a highlight, all along the exposed brick wall. He sells a range of acoustic stringed instruments--standard guitars to mandolins to the Latin American cuatro, as well as brass instruments and accessories.
When Harris and his family moved from California a decade ago, his daughter was in high school and played the trumpet. He did an Internet search to find the best fit for academics and music, and he says Chelsea came out tops. His daughter has since moved to the east coast for her career, but Harris and his wife, Nancy, remain enthusiastic supporters of the town.
"For a time it seemed Main Street had empty-storefront disease," he says. "This is way too successful a strip to have that happen--and I wanted to help. Having a vibrant and walkable downtown is important to me."
Harris plans to expand his selections of "books for grown-ups," and toys and games for kids ages ten to eighteen, who he says are the toughest age group to buy for. Traditional games including chess and Go! are big sellers, he says, as are books for children and young adults. "People think e-books are taking over, but paper books are doing well!" he says. Nancy will use the basement as storage space for her nonprofit, Hearts Community Service, which provides clothing and household goods to those in need.
Just Imagine, 115 S. Main., Chelsea, 562-2040, Tues.-Wed. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Thurs. 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. noon-4 p.m. Closed Mon.
[Originally published in June, 2014.]