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Washington Street Books and Music offers a change of pace

John Klisavage and his daughter Katie at his Washington Street Books & Music store in Havre de Grace. The store specializes is rare books, antiques and memorabilia.
John Klisavage and his daughter Katie at his Washington Street Books & Music store in Havre de Grace. The store specializes is rare books, antiques and memorabilia. (By Scott Serio, For The Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Tired of traipsing from one big-box store to another? A visit to family-owned Washington Street Books and Music in Havre de Grace might be the change you need. More than a seller of unique books, Washington Street offers antiques, jewelry, sculptures, religious and new age items, and authentic movie and music memorabilia. Recent collectibles for sale include costumes worn in the hit film "The Hunger Games" and a guitar autographed by Katy Perry.

The personable owner, John Klisavage, points out a life-size model of Anakin Skywalker. "My own love is movie props," he admits. "Especially things from 'Star Wars.'"

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Once perceived as "that grumpy guy moving the boxes around," Klisavage says his attitude changed after a near-fatal accident while alone in the store. While cleaning out an attached garage, he fell from a ladder, impaling his leg on a metal rod. Today, the two reminders of that accident are the limp he acquired and the converted garage, now a game room for players of Magic: the Gathering.

Boasting more than 12 million fans worldwide, Magic: the Gathering is a strategic card game that involves old-fashioned, face-to-face play. Washington Street Books and Music hosts gatherings on Fridays and Sundays, as well as Pro Tour Qualifier competitions.

"It is competitive," says Klisavage, "but it's really about having a great time together."

Despite the popularity of the game nights, the heart of the shop is still its books. Aisles overflow with history, fiction and rare editions such as the illustrated 1894 "peacock edition" of Pride and Prejudice. The oldest book in the store dates to 1589.

Klisavage tries not to worry about the threat from the big-box stores.

"We carry such a unique assortment," he explains. "You can either worry about it all the time or do something. You have to adapt and change — find new ways to be different. We're always looking for that object that makes you say, 'Oh, wow,' when you see it… If we can do that, we've done a good job." 

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