March 10, 2003

Bantering Over Books

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The first thing that comes to mind when you meet Joe Wetmore, the owner and founder of Autumn Leaves Bookstore, is “Ithaca.” With shoulder-length grey hair, dashing bluish-hazel eyes, a smile for everybody, black jeans and a t-shirt from WEOS, a Geneva radio station, he gives off the aura of everything this small city tries to achieve.

It’s a Saturday afternoon, and Wetmore is working in his bookstore, opening bills, joking with his employees, giving political advice to potential City Council candidates and answering questions from an overwhelmed Sun reporter.

“I moved here 10 years ago,” he says. “Ithaca seemed like a nice place to live, and it looked like it could use a new bookstore.”

10 years later, Wetmore says the city, “could be better” but after working in a health food store, as a social worker, in newspapers and in construction, the bookstore “is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Autumn Leaves is the only bookstore Wetmore has ever worked in or owned and in the past ten years, it has grown tremendously.

“You know where See Spot Gallery is? That used to be my store,” he says. He gestures to the two stories that Autumn Leaves now occupies, complete with a caf