Chamber member of the week: Love of books leads to life selling them

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Lee and Mike Temares are antiquarian book dealers who specialize in children’s series, art and illustrated books and out-of-print first editions in many fields. According to Lee, “I always bought books, escaped into books, and finally, sold books. Along the way I acquired expertise in many phases of the antiques and collectibles business.”

It all started in 1963. Because she was pregnant with her first child, St. John’s would not let her continue in graduate school. For the first time in her adult life, she had some spare time after her teaching day at a public school was over. Her husband, Mike, mentioned that there was an auction in Croton-on-Hudson and there might be a Monroe calculator, which Mike could use at home and not have to stay late at the office. So off to the auction they went. 

Up on the second floor was a library. Lee said, “I saw many of the books I coveted when I was in college – the ones I used to have to sit in the library and read because they were psychology reference.” 

The day wore on and finally the auctioneer said that they were going to sell the contents of the library because not enough money had been raised. 

After a few bids the entire collection was hers. Mike and one of Lee’s students, who had accompanied them, stuffed as many books as they could into every spot in their 1957 Chevy. Lee adds that when they got home to their new house in Flushing, both sets of parents and Mike said that the books had to go.

“I culled through the books and started making phone calls. To make a long story short, a business was born. I could have the books I wanted and sell the ones I didn’t,” said Lee. 

Three children later and a larger house in a better school district was needed. Manhasset was the first choice, and Plandome in particular. Lee worked out of their house, doing mail order. As Lee’s business expanded, she opened a shop on Plandome Road.

She and Mike learned that a book show was starting up on Long Island and decided to participate. They still exhibit at about 25 book, paper and antiques shows a year, down from a high of 55. Up until a few years ago, each of these fields were separate. Now, there is much crossover and the shows are often combined.

Lee explained that selling used and rare books is very different from selling new books. When they started out, they could buy at auctions and book sales. Later, tag sales came along. As they became better known and advertised, individuals would call. They could buy whole collections, cull what they wanted to sell and donate the rest.

When the first group antiques shop was opening on Plandome Road, Lee and Mike eagerly joined in. That led to two more locations in 14 years, until rising rents and the Internet changed the way they do business. The plethora of books online has made all but the rarest and most expensive books readily available. 

The other side of their business is antiques appraisals, running tag sales and advising on clean-outs. But that is a separate story. In addition to helping Lee, Mike is a reverse mortgage counselor for Family and Children’s Association. 

Lee and Mike Temares, LLC, may be reached at Tembooks@aol.com or (516) 627 8688.

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