A Project for Students and Citizens

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Four

In Marion on July 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm
Charles E. Flaherty in front of his business.

Charles E. Flaherty in front of his business.

Living Democracy Citizen Award: Charles E. Flaherty

By Catherine Tabor

Veritable treasures can be found in bookstores. From long-forgotten dramas read in high school to tales never heard of that become cherished tomes, all can be found within the four walls of a bookstore. Inside of a little bookstore in Marion, another treasure can be found. His name is Charles E. Flaherty and he is 62 years old. Mr. Charlie, as he is referred to by members of the Marion community, owns and operates As Time Goes By.

Born in Rutherford, N.J., Flaherty was the youngest of seven children. The love of reading was introduced to him at an early age and he continues to build his collection of books. It was his love of books that eventually led him to opening his own store.

However, before opening As Time Goes By, Charles Flaherty had a couple other business ventures and odd jobs. In New Orleans, he owned a balloon and novelty shop. And at another point in time, he previously owned a dart business. Eventually, both of those stores closed and he moved on. He worked for the circus for about 13 years and was also was a truck driver, a manager of a Dollar General store in Uniontown and a field representative for Book Market for 5 years.

It was his job at Book Market, once the United States’ 4th largest book chain, which really set the idea of As Time Goes by in motion. With the inexpensive prices that Book Market sold their books for and his employee discount, Flaherty built up quite the collection of books and soon his house appeared to be getting smaller each time he set foot in it. He decided it was time for him to get a bigger house, one that had enough space for a library.

The 1960s corner features an antique Coke machine that still sells glass bottles of Coke for 50 cents.

The 1960s corner features an antique Coke machine that still sells bottles of Coke for 50 cents.

His job at Book Market allowed him to travel and he searched seven states for his new residence. Eventually, he settled in Greensboro, in a nice, old house that he was able to fill with his books and antique collections. But his job at Book Market did not last and ultimately he sold his house. He worked a year at Carson & Barnes, a big tent circus, as the “24 hour man” who travels one day ahead of the show and helps lay out the route, deals with supplies and sponsors, and helps lay out the tent.

He moved back to Alabama after the year on the road and he settled down in Marion. He was able to obtain a job at Judson College as a maintenance worker and he has worked there ever since. He mostly does painting and repair work. And while the money isn’t as good as he is used to, he acknowledges that jobs are hard to come by in Marion. Two businesses in Marion, Bonnie’s Bakery and Polka Dots, have even closed down within the last week.

The idea for As Time Goes By was in the back of his mind for 10 years and he was able to finally open it in 2011. He found an uninhabited business ruined by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that had been left vacant until 2011 when he decided to open As Time Goes By. After borrowing some money from the bank and his brother, he was able to renovate the store and in September he was open for business.

When asked about the name of the store, As Time Goes By, Charles Flaherty remarked, “I wanted the store to be like a little time capsule of sorts, a history lesson. And it’s something everybody can relate to. People don’t realize how much the world changes just during their lifetime.” And the store is something he is very passionate about. He loves history, music, books, and pies and As Time Goes By combines all four things.

Patrons of As Time Goes By can enjoy a slice of pie or some homemade cheesecake and coffee as well as a large variety of books. And each booth is set up to represent a decade from the 1900s with keepsakes and antiques from that decade displayed on the wall behind the table. For the 1960s, Mr. Charlie has a working coke machine in which he sells small bottles of soda for 50 cents each.

Flaherty and his book shop were mentioned on The Official Travel Site of Alabama as an interesting person and place to visit in Marion: “Down the street is the town’s bookstore and coffee house, As Time Goes By (418 Washington St.; 334–683–6757; map). Here you will find Charles Flaherty, who will sell you a book, pour you a cup of coffee, serve you a piece of pie and even spin records from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or 60s depending on the time of day on his music clock. Flaherty opens the store on selected days and the hours are limited, so call ahead.”

Visitors can even play board games while they read or enjoy a slice of pie.

Visitors can even play board games while they read or enjoy a slice of pie.

As Time Goes By can be found on Facebook. Browsers are more than welcomed and buyers are even more appreciated. And with an I.D., visitors are able to play board games while in the store.

Marion may be a small town, but it has a lot of heart and passion and Charles Flaherty possesses a fair share of it. With a personal collection of books that includes literature from all over the world and a record collection and past just as varied, Flaherty is certainly a man to know and a wonderful citizen of Marion.

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  1. […] I’d like to thank Mr. Charles Flaherty, owner of As Time Goes By, for always sharing his cool stories and for running a really nice bookstore that I will miss. I […]

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