President Obama made his first foray out of his vacation compound Friday with a trip to the legendary Bunch of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven.
Bystanders who had been browsing upstairs at the two-story bookstore rushed to the windows as crowds gathered on the street.
Obama, in a blue polo shirt, jeans and sneakers, wandered in with his daughters. After telling some customers that Sasha was going to browse, he wandered the store with a staff member while discussing his choices with one of the employees.
In a stack of at least four books, Obama had Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” “Room” by Emma Donoghue, and “The Bayou Trilogy” by Daniel Woodrell, the author of “Winter’s Bone.” Sasha had a book called “Frost.”
The bookstore appears to be a first family favorite: Obama and his daughters stopped at Bunch of Grapes on their first full day of vacation in Martha’s Vineyard in 2010.
It was unclear which books Obama ultimately purchased at Bunch of Grapes, but “Brave New World” was most likely for his 13-year-old daughter, Malia. The book is required reading for eighth-grade students at Sidwell Friends School, where she attends.
After chatting with his girls about how many books they could finish during vacation, Obama paid at the counter (with his sunglasses on). By that point in his 20-minute visit, a huge crowd had gathered on Main Street -- alerted to his visit by the Secret Service and Massachusetts state police who had cordoned off parts of Vineyard Haven’s Main Street. The girls went ahead and jumped back into the SUV. Obama shook some hands as onlookers screamed and snapped pictures.
A group of friends renting a house just up the street said they had been chatting about Obama’s visit just moments before his arrival. Seeing the commotion, the women ran toward the Bunch of Grapes bookstore (one with her Mimosa flute still in her hand).
“We ran straight out of the house… and came flying down,” said Sandra Magwood, a business owner and Democrat. At breakfast, she said, they had been saying: “We’ve got to meet him; we want to meet him; we want to support him; we want to shake his hand—and there was the caravan.”
The group of women described themselves as supporters and fans of the president who plan to volunteer for his 2012 effort. They said they were “hopeful” about the president’s reelection prospects and scoffed at the notion that Republicans would begrudge him a vacation.
“Every hard-working American deserves a vacation and he works harder than most,” said one of the friends, Winona Lake of Washington, D.C., who said she has vacationed on the Vineyard for a decade. “And he works, we think, harder than most.”
Though they couldn’t get close enough for a handshake and a hello, Magwood said the sighting was “the perfect topping” to their getaway.
After his bookstore visit, Obama traveled on to the Vineyard Golf Club, a private course on the Vineyard for a round of golf.