One year ago on Small Business Saturday, Andrew DeRado, instructor of English in Mercy College’s School of Liberal Arts, opened By-the-Dam Books — a small, independent bookstore in the center of Croton-on-Hudson, New York.
“I’ve worked in books for forever, and I thought, ‘Why not do it in my town, which could use a bookstore?’” he explained.
DeRado had spent almost 10 years by that point working at New York City bookstores Book Culture on Broadway and Shakespeare & Co. His family had only just moved to Croton-on-Hudson — his wife’s hometown — when the pandemic began, prompting him to look for new work closer to home. With a master’s degree in fiction writing, he landed a teaching position at Mercy College. Then, in November 2021, when the right space became available, he decided to open By-the-Dam Books as the holiday season got into full swing.
“I’m thankful for all the warm welcomes,” DeRado said. “There are so many people who come in and say, ‘I'm so glad you're here! This town needed a bookstore.’ One of the joys of a bookstore is being able to chat with people about books, and I even have some regulars now. It’s been fun to feel like part of the community so quickly.”
He enjoys the interconnectedness of his work at the bookstore, at Mercy and as an author in his own right: “I spend a lot of my life thinking about good writing. With my students, it's what makes good writing to help them become better writers. At the store, it’s what makes good writing to sell books. And for me, it’s what makes good writing so that I can be a good writer.”
His work enables him to bring a unique perspective to his students at Mercy: “It’s particularly fun when I’m teaching authors who are still writing and whose books I’m selling. On Thursdays, for example, I go to the store in the morning and then I teach an afternoon class. It’s cool to say to my students, ‘I just sold a couple copies of David Sedaris' new book, and now we’re going to talk about a David Sedaris story.’ Not sure if that gives me any additional credibility with them, but at least it’s proof that we’re reading works by good writers!”
As DeRado reflects on the bookstore’s first year and plans for the year ahead, he hopes to do even more with the local community. Over the past year, By-the-Dam Books has hosted a couple of book clubs and an event with local author Jeannie Zusy. DeRado intends to organize more events like these in the coming year. “I'm looking forward to doing more author events, more book clubs, more story times for kids, more occasions for people to come into the store and engage with good books,” he said.
Speaking of good books, DeRado shared two of his current recommendations: “The Frederick Sisters Are Living the Dream” by Jeannie Zusy and “Liberation Day” by George Saunders. “Jeannie’s book is a fantastic story,” DeRado said. “She’s such a great writer and such a wonderful person — and she lives right here in Croton! And I love Saunders’ writing both to read and to teach. He’s a writing teacher at Syracuse University, and I love the way he thinks about writing.”
DeRado curates the inventory at By-the-Dam Books given the small space, but he emphasized that he could order essentially any title to arrive within a few days. To learn more about By-the-Dam Books, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 914-274-5888.