Spring/Summer 2021 Issue – Identity

An Interview with Silver Unicorn

Recently, Window Seat came together with Paul Swydan—the owner of Silver Unicorn Bookstore in West Acton—to talk about the importance of identity and the local community in writing and bookstores. We highly recommend checking out Silver Unicorn and experiencing its beautiful storefront and the myriad of books it contains. We guarantee that you will have a great time. You can also purchase books on the Silver Unicorn website where shipping and delivery is available for a $5 charge. 

What is the purpose and mission of Silver Unicorn?

The purpose of the bookstore is to be able to provide quality books and a place of community. Mission statements are generally fairly hollow, and if I wrote one, it would be only to impress bankers so they would give me a loan, but essentially the mission is to simply be good stewards, and good neighbors, who gently push the community to read the most quality books we can get our hands on to sell.

What was your motivation for starting Silver Unicorn bookstore, and how has your sense of self or identity contributed to that?

Willow Books was a fixture in Acton for over 20 years, and when it closed in 2017, people were upset. A little research revealed that it didn’t close due to lack of demand necessarily. That summer, I had become worn out with my job at the time, which was a sports writer and editor, and didn’t like the direction that sports media was going in, in general. So I was looking for an exit. Enter the idea of opening a bookstore.

I’d say my sense of self or my identity is completely wrapped up in the building of this bookstore. I was a marketing major as an undergrad and earned an MBA as well, so I had the education to start a business. Since both of my parents had started their own businesses—numerous businesses, actually—and since both of my grandfathers had started their own businesses, I had the entrepreneurial spirit to also start one. In addition, over the years, as someone who was a stay-at-home parent during the day and a writer and editor at night, I’ve developed a strong work ethic, which is really what you need to own and run a successful business. Nobody hands you success.

Do you think it’s important to understand your identity before entering the writing field?

No, I don’t. I think part of the journey of writing is to find your identity, to see your identity changing, and/or to see your identity bump up against others’ and help you compare and contrast.

How does the local community influence Silver Unicorn?

In a myriad of ways. If multiple people special order the same book, we’ll keep stocking it. If our community finds something important, we do our best to reflect that in the bookstore, be it through the books we stock, the actions we take, the statements we make, the charities we work with, etc. Without our community, we wouldn’t exist.

Do you have any books by local authors to suggest?

Oh gosh, so many. In terms of young adult books, I will always push Here to Stay by Sara Farizan, because it’s one of my favorite books, and Sara is one of my favorite people. The mysteries and thrillers by Karen M. McManus—who used to work in Acton—are all incredible. Acton resident Nicole Lesperance made her ‘Young Adult’ (YA) debut with The Wide Starlight earlier this year, and it is tremendous. ABRHS librarian Anna Secino co-hosted our launch event with Nicole. We have a number of middle-grade and picture book authors who live in Acton and the surrounding communities as well – Melissa Stewart, Joy Wieder, Betsy Uhrig, Casey Robinson, Sarah S. Brannen – to name just a few. I could keep going, but I’ll stop here for fear of overwhelming you.

Anything else you would like to share about identity?

I think identity is ever-changing. Looking back on my life, there are certain elements of my identity that have remained since childhood, but there is so much that has changed over time, and will continue to change as I get older.