A photo of Ken Shure and Joe Reilly during the early years of their partnership still stands behind the shop’s counter.
A photo of Ken Shure and Joe Reilly during the early years of their partnership still stands behind the shop’s counter.
They started out calling themselves “the trunk merchants of Rockport.” Now after four locations and 41 years in business, Ken Shure and Joe Reilly have decided to close the doors of Goose River Exchange.

The shop at 21 Bay View Street in Camden selling books and “ephemera” — old paper, posters, photographs, postcards, artistic prints — will remain open through December 30. Shure would not identify the business that is ready to take over except to say the storefront will not continue as a bookstore. The Goose River collection will remain available on its website, www.gooseriverexchange.com, but the pair is attempting to liquidate stock by marking everything down 50 percent. What remains could become part of various private collections.

A photo of the pair, who have been friends since they were students at Boston University, stands behind the counter at the front of the shop. They opened their first store in 1977 in Rockport village, overlooking the Goose River, due to their shared interest in ephemera.

“Most people didn’t pay attention to old paper. You could buy it by the trunkload and nobody really cared about it,” Shure said. “It was a whole little section of the antique business in Maine that had not been seriously explored.”

Shure and Reilly, who was unavailable for an interview, opened two more shops side-by-side at Lincolnville Beach beginning in 1982 before relocating to their current storefront in the former ABC Books location in Camden around 2011.

Over the years they partnered with Earle Shettleworth Jr., a former Maine state historian working for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, as well as the Maine Historical Society. They have also supplied material to the U.S. Library of Congress and university special collections.

Shure said he and Reilly initially sought someone to take over the store, but found it was not an easy business model to transfer to someone without the patience or historical background to operate a specialty shop.

“There’s a lot of scholarship and there’s a lot of know-how involved,” Shure said, “so it was difficult to find anybody that was able or willing to take that on.”

Shure now operates a book imprint with his wife, Liv Rockefeller, called Two Ponds Press, which will be his focus after Goose River ends its long run.

He will miss the “discovery aspect” of locating items at estate sales, which he likened to archeological digs conducted alongside Reilly, who remains active with the historical society in Bayside, where he makes his home.

“You went down through and you’d start in the ’50s and you’d end down at the turn of the century by the time you got to the bottom of it,” he said. “I still have boxes in storage of some of the stuff we pulled out of those barns.”

The shop’s clientele has included some notable regulars such as David McCullough, the renowned author of American history who periodically stopped in looking for source material; John Travolta, who made yearly visits to buy Christmas presents; and Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, who found a specific copy of a play he used to produce the work on Broadway.

Visitors from across the globe have also shared their own stories and knowledge. “Sometimes they’ll tell you things that you don’t know about the material, which is fascinating,” Shure said.

Along with his own discoveries, he will file those visits on his shelf of memorable moments. “I think those are the things that I’ll miss the most,” he said.