Aug 27


From Jack and Paula Bruggeman, for WABF

Virginia couple launches antiquarian book business as encore career

A few years ago, as we contemplated leaving our full-time careers behind us, we agreed we needed a plan for how to spend the next 20 or so years. “Retirement” was not for us; instead we wanted to combine our talents, experience, and interests into an entrepreneurial venture that would serve us well in our next stage in life. That is how we— Jack and Paula Bruggeman— launched Ayr Hill Books (ayrhillbooks.com) in Vienna, VA in 2017.   

Our goal with Ayr Hill Books was to have a small independent business we could run together in retirement that would engage us, provide for a bit of travel, keep us out of trouble, expand our network of professional and personal contacts, and, if lucky, provide some added disposable income!

As lifelong book lovers and collectors, we are devotees of the printed word in all its finer forms and we come to our new venture from professional backgrounds in book selling and publishing, writing, editing, and journalism.

Jack, a Washington, DC native, made his career as a book publisher spending 38 years acquiring and developing professional reference, medical, and college textbooks for a variety of publishers including Prentice Hall, Little, Brown, Aspen Publishers, and Medical Economics. After 11 years as the Director of Special Publishing for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacy in Bethesda, MD, he retired at the end of 2016 to begin work on establishing Ayr Hill Books.

Paula, who hails from Massachusetts, has worked as a journalist, book and journal editor, public affairs manager, television producer, and most recently as research publications manager for the Graduate Management Admission Council in Reston, VA. Paula retired in August 2017 to join Ayr Hill Books full-time.

Our business is the product of several years of “pre-retirement” preparation, which includes the completion of the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) in July 2015, an intense weeklong professional course covering all aspects of independent book selling. CABS is held each summer on the campus of Colorado College in Colorado Springs. We are grateful to the CABS faculty who encouraged, taught, inspired, and helped us arrive where we are today.

In addition to completing CABS, we’ve attended multiple used book sales, book auctions, and numerous antiquarian book fairs including the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair. We also joined the Washington Rare Book Group and the Virginia Antiquarian Booksellers Association. Our membership in both of these organizations has introduced us to many fine booksellers, special collections librarians, and ABAA members who have been generous with their time, advice, and support. We are grateful to them as well as to the folks who run the Waverly Rare Books & Prints auctions for their knowledge and expertise.

Now in our second year of business, we’ve learned the ropes of online bookselling (we sell through www.abebooks.com) and sell directly to the public and the trade at numerous book fairs. In addition to WABF we have set up booths at antiquarian book fairs in Brooklyn, Boston, and Richmond. Next spring we will exhibit at the New York Book and Ephemera satellite fair, held in conjunction with the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair. This September will be our second time selling at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair.

A final word about our name, Ayr Hill Books. Ayr Hill is the original name for the town of Vienna, called so in the 1760s by the town’s principal landowner at the time, who was a native of Ayr County, Scotland. As the town grew it assumed the name Ayr Hill, by which it was known for a hundred years. 

We hope to see you at the 2018 Washington Antiquarian Book Fair!




You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. - Ray Bradbury