Manic muggles mob bookstore for `Potter’ |

Manic muggles mob bookstore for `Potter’

Ten-year-old Marshall Shear was up way past his bedtime Friday night, clutching the doorknob of Explore Booksellers just before midnight.

“Seven minutes and 10 seconds!” he bellowed to the line behind him, a queue of locals and visitors who collectively chuckled at Shear’s enthusiasm while they chatted with friends and checked their own watches.

Shear was first in line to buy the very first copies of “Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix” sold in Aspen. It is the fifth in the series of wildly popular children’s books by author J.K. Rowling.

The bookstore opened from midnight to 1 a.m. for the highly anticipated occasion, which prompted a line that filled up the shop’s front porch and ran down the sidewalk to Main Street.

The store sold 118 books in Saturday’s first hour to a crowd that didn’t stop wandering through the front door until 12:35 a.m. At the stroke of midnight, the store, with employees and temporary help dressed in hooded capes, colorful robes and even one Slytherin quiddich jersey, opened to greet the customers.

Carolyn Jemison, who has worked as a clerk at the shop for a year, brought seven of her grandchildren along to sling the books – a substantial task as each book is a hefty 870 pages. The shop ordered 350 books, but Jemison said she was still afraid of running out.

“For the last three days we’ve been doing nothing but answer phone calls about Harry Potter,” she said. “I feared we would run out of books tonight and there wouldn’t be any for people the next morning.”

Aspen residents must have had the same thought, because 125 books were reserved copies. Even so, 36 of those copies (for $32.57 each, tax included) were picked up just after midnight on Saturday.

Local attorney Elaine Gerson and her daughter, Kaitlin, 11, who arrived on the porch at 10:45 p.m., disagreed on whether they were actually at the store for the elder Gerson’s fanaticism or her daughter’s.

“I’ve actually already ordered the book on Amazon, but I’m here anyway,” Elaine said. “How nerdy is that? I’m using Kaitlin as my decoy.”

Kaitlin said she most enjoys the characters in each Harry Potter storyline, and friend Mia Hull, 8, said she’s read the first Potter book 17 times.

“The books grab your attention and don’t let it go,” said Reed Jones, 18, who was visiting Aspen from Houston during a family gathering.

He was standing with five family members, all who nodded simultaneously when asked if they actively sought out a bookstore opening at midnight. “I was depending on a friend to get me a book if there wasn’t any way to get it here,” Jones said.

Farther down the line was a mother-daughter combo dressed in full witch regalia, from pointy-tipped hats to long, dark gowns. Both Briana Morse and her mother, Jackie, said they’ve read the entire book series together as a family, and are awaiting Briana’s acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“The books appeal to people of all ages because they’re about good and evil,” Jackie Morse said. “But the bad teachers in the books can be good, and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s like the Big Bang Theory on imagination.”

Scott Schoezel of Denver, who was in town for Jazz Aspen, was standing in line alone. He compared the evening to the launch of Microsoft’s Windows ’95.

“My wife called and told me, ‘I don’t care where you are at 11:30, get to Explore,” he said. Moments later his cell phone rang, and he chatted with his wife, daughter and two sons while following the line forward.

“I’m in line right now,” he assured his family.

Maureen Hirsch and her son, Matt, 9, were some of the last people to purchase copies early Saturday morning. Matt, though sleepy-eyed and sneezing from seasonal allergies, was quick to say if he could cast a spell, he’d like to transfigure into a wolf.

“It’s incredible the sense of wonder, magic and creativity the books create,” Maureen said.

The smaller wizards and witches inside Explore began to rub their eyes and yawn as 1 a.m. approached, and all the muggles that had bought the book departed to begin reading it.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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