Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives
Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

TASA FARONII, OWNER of the Oracle Bookstore in Liberty, watches as her store’s inventory is auctioned off for non-payment of her lease agreement with a former landlord.

More Than A
Question of Money?

By Ted Waddell
LIBERTY — March 16, 2004 – In Sullivan County, folks don’t burn books. Instead, they’re seized and put up for auction if you’re behind in your rent.
Back in March 2001, Tasa Faronii opened up the Oracle Bookstore along Main Street in Liberty. Over the few next months, the bookstore became more than a place to buy a book, as people started gathering there to share their love of poetry, a healthy snack or check out art shows on the walls.
But she found the overhead too high and pulled up her stacks of books, relocating to a building a bit further downtown.
“A lot of our startup capital went into a building that we just couldn’t afford to stay in. It got way too expensive,” said Faronii, standing in a biting wind on Friday as she watched the contents of her store auctioned off during a sheriff’s sale.
After she broke her three-year lease at the first location, owned by Village Properties International, LLC, landlord Norman Kerr got a judgment against her in the amount of $19,256.52, signed by Town of Neversink Justice Barbara Garigliano.
On Thursday, March 4, representatives of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department’s Civil Division showed up at the doorstep of her bookstore with a court order authorizing them to seize the contents of the store and put them up for public auction the following Friday afternoon.
(The second bookstore is in a building reportedly owned by Mark Hirsch of Main Street Rentals.)
“The original landlord wanted to collect the money that we would have paid if we had stayed there for the three years,” said Faronii. “We broke the lease, without a doubt. . . . If we could have paid that kind of money, we would have stayed there.
“It was impossible to maintain in the economy and town we’re in. . . . It was a choice of closing or moving,” she added. “Liberty is just coming back.”
What was it like to watch her books, records and a hand-carved chess set disappear into the back of a rental truck destined for a sheriff’s sale at Sam’s Service Station?
“It was difficult,” recalled Faronii.
So on Friday, a handful of folks who turned out to grab a good deal were joined by members of Sullivan Peace and Justice, who billed the event as a “Violation of Community Spirit Demonstration.”
In a press release issued by Sullivan Peace & Justice, the grassroots organization alleged, “There are several unresolved legal issues surrounding the seizure of the Oracle’s inventory of books and artwork. One of those is the confiscation of consignment items not belonging to either Ms. Faronii or The Oracle.
“In stark contrast to these actions by Village Properties, the Oracle Bookstore has been a regular and dependable contributor to Liberty’s village life,” continued the press release.
Standing on the frozen mud among rows of wrecked cars, whipped by a wind fluttering a blue tarp covering the rental truck, Paul Trust, the sheriff’s department’s chief civil officer, started bidding for lot #1 (about 10,000 hardcover books in 185 cardboard boxes) at $1,000.
After someone finally bid “one dollar,” the lot went for about $650.
About an hour or so later, a final bid of $140 was placed by Jim Gordon of Liberty for lot #4, consisting of miscellaneous furniture and “one painting of bottle and fruit.”
And then he turned around and gave it all back to Faronii, so at least she’d have a few tables and chairs for her next bookstore.
“The Oracle Bookstore was a great asset to the community, and I don’t want to see it split up and thrown to the wind,” he said. “I couldn’t see it destroyed.”
“It’s not just about money,” added Gordon. “Money is important, but it’s not the only thing in life.”
When it was all over, the sheriff’s sale had raked in $1,477.
Thomas Lardieri, a dealer in antiques and fine art from New Windsor, wasn’t too thrilled with the sale.
“What kind of bozo operation is this?” he said, stomping off to his SUV. “I came a long way for nothing. . . . It was a bunch of boxes in back of a truck, and I couldn’t see nothing. . . . I didn’t see any antiques – I seen a bunch of boxes.”
Stephen Bachop of Obernburg said he showed up “because I was curious to see what it was all about, but when I looked at the terms of the sale – something about the items subject to liens – my first reaction was I didn’t want to get involved in anybody else’s legal battles. . . . I didn’t want to get sued.”
While the sheriff’s sale went ahead according to law, a section of the terms of sale distributed to bidders read, “The interest of the judgment debtor being sold may be subject to liens, mortgages, taxes or other encumbrances.”
Richard Riseling, a member of Sullivan Peace & Justice, said he didn’t know all the ins and outs of the legal issues behind the sheriff’s sale but turned out to support Faronii.
“She’s a great member of the community and has done wonderful things,” he said. “Why the haste?”
In recent years, the Oracle Bookstore became home to the county’s only Spanish-language 12-step program and was widely known around town as a safe place for kids to hang out after school and catch up on events, read or do a little homework.
It was the place on Main Street to have a 24-hour poetry reading, signings by local authors and open mikes.
While Faronii’s old landlord is still stuck with some back rent, she’s not giving up on the idea of having a bookstore.
“We’re going to pick it up again, but we’re not going to rent from anybody,” she said. “We’re going to see if we can find a building of our own.”
But first, Faronii’s got to “work through some legalities.”
“About a third of my inventory belonged to authors, artists and musicians,” she said, claiming that some of the items seized were on consignment.
“All these people lost their artwork, books and recordings,” she said. “Suddenly somebody else had it, trying to collect a debt.”

top of page  |  home  |  archives