A Surprise Downstairs
Just beyond Gate 3
of the U.S. Naval Academy, a jewel box of a shop nestles within
Preble Hall. Preble houses the Academy Museum, but downstairs
and around the corner from the exquisite ship models awaits the
bookstore of the U.S. Naval Institute. It's been in that spot
since 1991, yet few Annapolis denizens know of its existence.
"It's amazing. Tourists from Minnesota know of us and seek us
out as soon as they reach town," says longtime bookstore manager
Virginia Cullison Schultz. "They know we have books---wonderful
books---that can be found nowhere else."
The U.S. Naval Institute is a non-profit membership organization
which, according to its website, www.naval
institute.org, is for "Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard
professionals and for others interested in sea services." With
a mission to preserve the history of the seas and of America's
sea and air wars, the institute publishes two magazines, Proceedings
and Naval History and is the publisher of more than 800 books.
Among the Naval Institute's more notable books are The Bluejacket's
Manual, a sailor's handbook first published in 1902 and now
in its 22nd edition, Combat Fleets of the World, and
Tom Clancy's first wildfire success, The Hunt for Red October.
Venture inside the shop and you'll find every available kind of
book about naval history, including Navy ships and---yes---lighthouses!
Unlike the musty bookshops located on Harry Potter's
Diagon Alley, this one's cheerful and inviting. In addition to
books, videotapes, CDs and tapes, you'll find other Navy memorabilia,
from souvenir scarves and umbrellas to nautical knickknacks, postcards,
topical t-shirts, foul weather gear and toys. Beyond the inviting
displays of new novels, historical accounts and biographies stand
displays of beautiful reproductions of rare nautical etchings.
Samples of the artwork are wall-mounted on swing arms for easy
To your right as you enter is the sunlit Children's Corner. It
is Virginia Schultz's brainchild. She tends to it lovingly---it
is chock full of children's novels, historical fiction, fictional
diaries, coloring books, how-to books and age-appropriate books
for babies as well as young teens. You'll also find baskets of
eye-catching nautical-flavored toys and colorful ship model kits.
Children who arrive with their parents or grandparents immediately
find a book and flop on the floor to browse while the adults shop.
For many years, the shop was located upstairs, next to USNI's
offices. There, the shop sold only books with the USNI imprint.
When it moved to its new home in '91, Schultz surveyed other bookshops
in the area and instituted changes. In addition to USNI's book
offerings, she found books from other publishers that complemented
the shop's inventory. Attractive displays of new publications
were set up on a regular basis. Windows were decorated. Prints,
music, videos and souvenirs became part of the mix. Finally, Schultz
developed the Children's Corner and stocked it with a tempting
array of must-haves. She inaugurated the shop's community outreach
to children: A local actor costumed to resemble U.S. Naval hero
John Paul Jones is regularly booked as a guest speaker in local
elementary and middle school classrooms. The shop preps students
in advance of each appearance with a selection of books and videotapes
about Commodore Jones.
Schultz is on her third career. For 25 years, she worked in the
insurance industry, for many of those years in an office just
outside Gate 3. Then, for 10 years, she worked as a researcher
for USNI. A few years prior to the move downstairs, she added
management of the bookstore to her duties.
She's been married 43 years to retired postal employee Ernest
"Ernie" Schultz and they have two children. Son Jeff lives in
Jupiter, Fla., and has two daughters. Daughter Lauren, an Annapolis
resident, has a 13-year-old daughter, Darcey. Though Schultz has
spent the past 20 years immersed in stacks of nautical books and
is descended from several generations of watermen, she rarely
ventures out on real water. Granddaughter Darcey makes up for
Schultz's hydro-indifference. The child is an avid swimmer and
has enlisted her grandmother to chauffeur her to swim meets---some
as far away as Buffalo, N.Y., Ohio and Florida.
Asked about future plans, Schultz laughs and says, "I'm too busy
to retire! I enjoy meeting all the people who come here from all
over the world to shop in our bookstore."
The U.S. Naval Institute Book store is open Mondays through Saturdays
from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 11 to 5 on Sundays. It will occasionally
stay open late to accommodate visitors on USNA game nights. It
is closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.