Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pearl Street Books - LaCrosse, WI

Pearl Street Books, LaCrosse, WI
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I'm a little concerned that I have now visited so many bookstores (290+) that I may visit one that I'll become apathetic about or develop a "ho-hum" attitude.  Yet thankfully, time after time, it doesn't happen.  Once again, I've visited a wonderful bookstore with a great space, an established history, an engaging bookseller, and is relavitlely close to where I live.  The independent bookstore gods continue to smile down upon me and I return the smile.  There was nothing "blah" about my visit to this terrific indie in LaCrosse.

Pearl Street Books is located in a building constructed in the 1880s.  It's in a space that was formerly a shoe store and the most striking thing to me when I entered was the floor to ceiling shelving on both walls.  The ceiling was so high that the shelves had moveable ladders on rails along both walls.  In other words, a book lover's dream.  The store is in the heart of downtown, an excellent location that offers great foot traffic.  They've been in this location for 17 years of the last 20+ years they've been in business.  There is a solid core of regular customers and lots of tourists, especially during the summer months and especially those who visit here on Mississippi River cruises.

Pearl Street offers new and used books with the new ones featured near the front of the store.  Customers are able to receive store credit or cash for the books they bring in.  They also acquire books via book sales throughout the area.  The store has recently established a presence on social media and also offer book sales online, both things that I think are good moves if a bookstore is able to do it.  They offer greeting cards that sell well but other than that, there are few sidelines.  You can also enjoy visiting the store for occasional author events, something that can always attract more customers.  And if you need a coffee, there is an indoor cut-though to the next door coffee shop, a win-win for both businesses.

I didn't get to meet the owner Jim A. on this visit but the store was in great hands with Allison, one of the booksellers.  She was the perfect bookseller; knowledgeable, conversant, and friendly.  Exactly the kind of person you usually meet working in bookstores.

Even though this store has been around for awhile, there are some folks in the LaCrosse area who haven't discovered it yet.  Now is the time.  Wisconsin winters can be brutal and man cannot live on cheese alone.  Visit Pearl Street Books and pick up a few books to get you through the winter.  Once you see this place, you'll be back for more.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Lion, Saroo Brierley.  Previously published as, A Long Way Home: A Memoir.  Author's account of growing up in India and at the age of 5 becomes lost from his family.  The result is an incredible story that takes him across the country of India and then halfway around the world to Australia.  All the time he's wondering if he can ever find his birth family.  Unbelievable story that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Going Into Town, Roz Chast. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:   Freddy And The Ignormus, Walter Brooks.  Freddy The Pilot, Walter Brooks.  Freddy The Detective, Walter Brooks.  Give A Boy A Gun, Todd Strasser.   



Ample window display space.  Notice the sign below the window of the previous business.  Years ago, this window would've been filled with shoes.    

Another one of the store's window displays.  
Walking into the store you'll see evidence of the store's history under your feet.  


There are two front door entrances and this is the view looking into the store from the right front door.  Halfway back on the right is the doorway cut-through that will take you into the coffeeshop.  

View looking to the left of the front entrance.  Notice that the books are literally shelved floor to ceiling.  This is true of both sides of the store.  

You'll find a bargain in this basket.  


Just a few of the greeting cards available.  

Displays of new books will be found near the front of the store.  

Floor to ceiling, nothing but books for as far as the eye can see.  

Shopping tip.

A few of the sidelines available.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

Another view of the children's section.  


Looking across the back wall of the store.  Apologies for the blur.  

This beautiful staircase will lead upstairs to a balcony area located in the back of the store.  

The balcony area is a perfect space to relax and sample a few books.  I love this area of the store.  

How could anybody not like this view?  Great shot from the balcony looking toward the front of the store.  

Something for your German speaking friends.  

A great selection of new children's books.  

With Allison on the right, one of the fine booksellers at Pearl Street Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Bookman - Grand Haven, MI


The Bookman, Grand Haven, MI
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As I travel the country I hear an optimistic, common theme from most independent bookstores.  They're back, they're returning.  But, here in Grand Haven...  The store was purchased by a group of 4, three years ago.  It was either that or see Grand Haven lose their bookstore.  Thank goodness Dick and his wife Sharon, Alexa, and Diane did their civic duty to preserve and continue this bookstore.  Unfortunately, there are still people in this tri-city area of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg, who haven't been here yet or even heard of The Bookman.  Time for these citizens to do THEIR civic duty and you don't even have to buy a bookstore.  Go to The Bookman and buy a card, a gift, or even a book.  Or heck, call the store and order a book and have Dick deliver it for free (now that's what I call customer service!).  Or go to the website and order a book online  See?  You have lots of options.  Whatever you do, don't let this GEM slip away.

When the Group of Four bought this business the transformation began.  Window displays, sidelines, online orders, social media presence, and more.  Business started out quite good but has since moderated and the ownership continues to look for ways to sustain.  If you have't been here yet, let me tell you what you'll find.  A spacious one-level store in a 100+ year old building that used to be a grain store.  There are books for any budget, new and used.  The used books offered are all mass-market or trade paperbacks just inside the front door and to the left in a room of their own.  If you bring in books for trade you'll receive store credit.  There are a variety of sidelines including a wall of magazines, greeting cards, reading glasses, and numerous items for kids.  Since this business has been here for 43 years, there is a built-in base of regulars and there is a big boost from tourists in the summers.   The store does frequent events both on and off site.  On the weekday morning of my visit, Diane and Shannon were offering books for an event at the local community center.  They also have a great partnership with some of the local schools, bringing kids and parents into the store for various events.

So I can check all the boxes for this fine indie, including an uber friendly group of owners and staffers, except one.  Grand Haven, wake-up and smell the coffee!  After 43 years, it's time to visit this fantastic bookstore and the wonderful people you'll meet here.  Bring a friend, tell a friend, get a gift for a friend.  But don't miss out on this important part of your "shop local, buy local" culture.  Save a bookstore and you help save a community.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs.  This book gets some good reviews but not from me.  Meh.  Didn't grab me at all.  Story of a kid who wants to find where his grandfather spent his childhood, after escaping Europe in WWII.  Includes black and white photos of human oddities.  Blah.  Lots of people like this but it didn't work for me.   

CURRENTLY READING:  Lion, Saroo Brierley.  Previously published as A Long Way Home: A Memoir.    


The store has two entrances, the front entrance from the street and this side entrance from a large parking lot on the side of the building.  


Always check out the calendar of events, this one located near the front entrance.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Find this book cart for some great bargains.  

Directly to the left of the front entrance is a room that offers all of the store's used books.  This is the view looking into that room.  

Take a moment in the used book room to add a piece to the puzzle.  

Or enjoy a comfortable seat while you sample a book.  

One of my favorite things in the used book room and in the store is the hanging book ceiling.  I see creativity like this in every indie I visit.  

Lots of magazines to choose from.  

A few of the books of local and regional interest.  

A portion of the general fiction books offered, on these shelves many of the covers are displayed outward.  

Fishing and outdoors items sell well here, as demonstrated by this display.  

A nice display of some of the books by local authors.  

Any bookstore that displays artwork by kids will probably get the kids and their parents in the bookstore.  A good idea for all indies if they can do it.  

I see some great Christmas gifts for shoppers at this display.  If you have grandchildren, find these!


I love seeing and hearing about the history of bookstore buildings.  The Bookman is in this building, a former grain store.  This is now the storefront.  

A variety of newspapers offered at the checkout counter.  

A portion of the children's section.  

A neatly arranged display of paperback bestsellers.  

Display offering a variety of sidelines.  

Some more great gift ideas for your holiday shopping.  

An overview of the store looking from the rear toward the front entrance.  The side entrance to the store is on the left, just out of the picture.  

The cast of Bookman rockstars and one imposter.  Thanks for a great visit.    

Friday, December 1, 2017

Books & Mortar - Grand Rapids, MI

 Books & Mortar, Grand Rapid, MI
(Like The Indie Bob on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Books & Mortar in Grand Rapids is one of the wave of independent bookstores that are opening around the country.  As far as I can tell, the two guys that opened this place knew what they were doing.  A one-level store located in the uptown area, this place oozes a combination of charm and hip that makes it very easy to visit, browse, and enjoy.  It's obvious that a lot of time was spent working on the interior and as Jonathan, one of the co-owners told me, aesthetics are important to them.  After all, they'll be spending a lot of time in the store.  The building is 100+ years old and was most recently a yoga studio but back in the day was a butcher shop.  But even in a building this old, there's no denying the freshness and newness within.

Books & Mortar offers all new books, a nice children's section, and a very tasteful selection of sidelines.  There are some hand made musical necklaces here that I haven't seen anywhere else.  The same local artist who did these also has a line of greeting cards here.  You can also find candles, stationery, and journals.  The store is located in an area that is surrounded by other locally-owned independent businesses, a great location.  It is in a progressive neighborhood and it bills itself as that kind of a bookstore.  Everything offered here is well-curated for a clientele that for the most part, are within walking distance of the store.  A true neighborhood bookstore.

As with every western and northern Michigan indie I've visited, this indie has great tourist business in the summers.  Jonathan and co-owner, Christopher, have been here through one holiday and when I asked Jonathan how it went last year, he gave me a one-word answer.  Insane (this is good!).  Great news at this new bookstore and optimism for the holiday ahead.

Jonathan was great to meet and nicely took a lot of time to visit with me, something I'm always so appreciative of.  

So this store is fantastic news for Grand Rapids and the uptown area.  Now, get out there and visit this sparkling new indie that has a bright future.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Freddy And The Bean Home News, Walter Brooks.  The Freddy The Pig books were written in the 1940s and 50s.  I've read two of them and find them to be delightfully charming stories that include talking animals, their sympathetic farmer and a dire problem that they have to solve.  This book was written in 1943 and reflects that time for the country with the animals starting a scrap iron drive for the war and then starting their own newspaper to compete with another that plays loose with the facts.  Probably classified as a middle-reader but also a book for those who are young at heart.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  To Capture What We Cannot Keep, Beatrice Colin.

A great exterior display window space.  

No argument from me!

View looking through the bookstore from the front entrance.  They've done a great job with the lighting in this space and I always like the tin ceilings.  Familiar readers may recognize the celebrity on the right.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Just inside the door you'll see an attractive display of sidelines.  

Another view of the ceiling and lighting shades and fixtures.  

If you're looking for a unique holiday gift, find these musically-themed necklaces.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  
Consider this shirt for your little one...

...and this companion book to go with it.


Another attractive display featuring a variety of interesting sidelines.  

This is one of the more uniquely made items I've seen in an indie and would make a great gift for yourself or a friend.  

Regular followers of this blog know this is the book that got me started.  It's available here. 

You'll need some wrapping paper for the holiday shopping you're going to do here.  


A partial view of the children's section.  

Another view of the children's section.  

From my spot in the children's section looking toward the front of the store.  

An overview of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance.  

With Jonathan on the right, the fine co-owner at Books & Mortar.  Thanks for a great visit.