The original founder of the firm was Roderick Smith (1871-1967). He was born in Inaclete, Stornoway and having started working in the pharmacy of Alexander MacPherson in Point Street, Stornoway, he proceeded to the Liverpool School of Pharmacy from where he qualified as a chemist and druggist in 1897.
After some years in the pharmacy of Priestland in Ramsay in the Isle of Man he returned to Stornoway in 1904 and set up his own business at 20 North Beach Street.
At this time he became friendly with an Estonian émigré, Leon (Louis) Bittiner (1874-1949) who had set up a shoe shop at 22 South Beach Street in Stornoway. The friendship was based on the fact that the Baltic Sea was part of their joint heritage; in that Bittiner hailed from that area and the father of Roderick Smith was a sea captain. This John Smith had been born in Bragar in Lewis in 1832, took his masters certificate in Aberdeen in 1851 and spent the rest of his short life sailing out of Stornoway in his schooners the Arica and then the Raven, around the coast of western Europe from Archangel to the Balearic Isles in the Mediterranean Sea.
John Smith made many visits to the Baltic ports with herring exported from Stornoway and in April 1874, whilst coming with a load of salt having departed from Lisbon, the Raven foundered in a storm in the Bay of Biscay with the loss of all hands.
In 1904 Roderick Smith bought the chemist business from the widow of his one-time apprentice master Alexander MacPherson and opened a new shop on the corner of Point Street and Cromwell Street (where Boots now stands).
Shortly after that he took Louis Bittiner as a tenant in the adjoining shop at 6 Cromwell Street. In due course Bittiner opened his own shop at 8 to 10 Cromwell Street (where the Baltic Bookshop now stands) and not surprisingly named it The Baltic Boot Store as one of a chain of boot shops of the same name in Aberdeen and other herring fishing ports in the North East of Scotland.
Louis Bittiner died in 1949 and some years later his daughter Mrs Caroline Y Richfield sold the shop at 8 to 10 Cromwell Street to her father’s friend, Mr Roderick Smith.
The business founded by Roderick Smith in 1904 was registered as a Limited Company in 1954 and continued with the Baltic Boot Store until 1997 when on reorganisation of the company, the pharmacy was sold to Boots the Chemist, the boot store closed down and the core business of Roderick Smith Ltd continued as the Baltic Book Shop.
The Baltic Book Shop continues under the management of Donald Matheson, the great grand-nephew of Roderick Smith.