Bookseller celebrates 25 years sharing his passion for used, vintage, and hard-to-find books

Andy Wills dreams of empty bookshelves he can fill. A third-generation bookseller, he is the owner of The Old Inlet Bookshop in Old Town Homer, currently celebrating 25 years in business.

His inventory includes used, rare and out-of-print books.

“Of the 20,000-plus books I carry, a visitor might find a favorite fiction writer or a naval text detailing all the major submarine battles of World War II, a signed Rockwell Kent-illustrated first edition “Moby Dick” in a dust jacket or a John Muir “Cruise of the Corwin” with a manuscript tipped into it,” Wills said.

Wills’ bookshop specializes in Alaskana, polar expedition, natural history, modern firsts, children’s and medical books, and offers a wide variety of general stock in most genres, including popular classics like “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Wizard of Oz.” To the younger reader, he sells a lot of Garfield, Tundra, Calvin & Hobbs, and graphic novels. And to Homer’s aging population, mysteries.

Wills’ books come from all over, including from book scouts like his dad who lives in Massachusetts, as well as local and statewide scouts. He also receives books from estate sales and people selling their books for cash or credit.

“There’s a strange alchemy, turning books into alchemy,” Wills said. “Some you never want to sell because they are so cool or hard to find. And others, if I have a book I can be proud of and know I will sell it, then when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Wills first opened his bookshop in a space beneath Bunnell Street Arts Center where he managed it for seven years, commercial fishing in the summer months with friends and family members minding the shop for him, and Wills managing it full time in the winter months.

Walk through the doors of The Old Inlet Bookshop today and you step into history, as the 1,000 square foot bookshop is the original Hansen House cabin that was at one time, Wills said, Homer’s first dry goods store, taken apart log by log and moved across the bay to Homer. Above the bookshop is a second floor with more books, and beyond the log cabin, 850 square feet of space that includes windows on all sides and a wraparound deck, and houses a piano, shelves of books, tables, chairs, and a commercial kitchen, above which is a vacation rental.

Wills purchased the cabin in 2001, renovated it and built the bookshop, opening in 2004. In 2005, he added a restaurant, Mermaid Café, and a vacation rental. Through the years, the restaurant was managed by locals, like Vida’s Thai Food, among others, but has sat unused since the start of COVID-19. Wills is eager to provide a bookshop and cafe to the community and is waiting for the right person to take on the kitchen. Once that is secured, he is planning to add on or build an additional building where he would like to have 12-foot ceilings and a bookshop cat.

“For now, this is working and it’s what we have until things change,” he said.

The “we” includes Wills and Sally, his wife of nearly 30 years, and their daughters Oceana and Lily, who have all worked at the shop through the years.

Wills said that he inherited the bibliophile disease and that it is firmly rooted.

Wills’ father is a doctor who, while Wills was growing up, enjoyed poetry, art, and music, and visiting auction barns and bidding on books. His dad would go in search of books that were valuable and sell them, making money on the side.

“Dad always had this book thing going, was a voracious reader, and had a good eye for what was valuable, and still does,” Wills said.

Once, while in London at a medical conference, his dad purchased an entire library of The History of Medicine and shipped five thousand leather books in tea boxes on a freight ship back to his parents’ house in the United States, leaving Wills’ grandfather with no place to sit and relax. When Wills’ dad sold four of those books and used the money to pay for an entire year of medical school, his Grandpa was intrigued and the two men joined forces, creating the A.A. Wills & Son book business.

When Wills’ parents married, another bibliophile joined the family. In 1972, the couple opened The Lord Randall Bookshop in their hometown of Marshfield, Massachusetts, and the then-12-year-old Wills began watching the shop for his mom.

“We spent a lot of weekends carrying books up and down stairs and from Boston to Marshfield,” he said. “Working alongside my parents, I grew enamored with books and the book business.”

Wills’ parents eventually separated, but remained friends and his mom operated the bookshop for 50 years, until she passed away in March. Wills moved to Homer in 1982 and while building his bookshop in 1997, his mother supplied numerous vintage books and his father shipped him 50 boxes, about 2,000 books. At his peak, his dad was shipping him 200 boxes of books a year and today, the rooms in The Old Inlet Bookshop are filled with boxes from his mom’s shop, a melding of the two bookshops.

Wills continues to commercial fish Bristol Bay in the summers, from early June to late July, running other people’s boats. While he fishes, Sally manages the shop, alongside his summer help.

As a bookseller, he is grateful to keep his family’s legacy going. He also values the conversations he has with people from all over the world and the opportunity to connect people with books.

“The world is made of stories, not rubles,” he said. “My goal is to supply goods that hopefully enhance other’s lives.”

Once, a young woman who was studying nursing came in and after talking, Wills gifted her “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Dr. Paul Farmer, the story of how one person can make a difference, in this case, in striving to solve global health problems through his philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity”. The woman later returned, told Wills that the book changed her life, sold it, and left it to be shared with someone else.

Stop by The Old Inlet Bookshop at 3487 Main Street, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and in the summer, seven days a week. Also available by appointment and to book the vacation rental, contact Wills at 907-235-7984 or

Owner Andy Wills sits behind the front counter of the Old Inlet Bookshop in Old Town Homer<ins>, Alaska</ins> on Tuesday, March 28<ins>, 2023</ins>. Photo by Christina Whiting

Owner Andy Wills sits behind the front counter of the Old Inlet Bookshop in Old Town Homer, Alaska on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. Photo by Christina Whiting