Friday, January 17, 2020

Forever Books - St. Joseph, MI

Forever Books, St. Joseph, MI
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"Humans, I command you to bow in my presence and pet me."  
The original intent of this project and blog was to feature this country's many wonderful and unique independent bookstores.  So yes, this will be one of those blurbs but I could EASILY spin this off about a charming bookstore dog who works here.  Clearly, the star of the show here is Poppy, a smallish, energetic (when he's working the floor) bundle of curly fur.  His duties include participating in children's story time; being available to greet his many human fans who stop in to pet him (Uh, don't forget the BOOKS, people); stocking his own display of popcorn for purchase; maintaining an active presence as the store's social media darling; and playing with his friend Kevin, a similar breed of dog who visits there.  I could hardly focus on the store with Poppy roaming everywhere.  What I noticed in between my episodes with Poppy was one attractive and quaint bookstore in a quaint town.  

Congratulations to Forever Books and owner Robin A. who are beginning their 21st year in business, still in its original location in downtown St. Joseph.  Robin began this venture with no experience and never thought she'd make it this long.  But there's a reason she's been successful.  She's smart, with a great staff (like Diana and Poppy), and thank goodness for the tourists.  As she told me, make your money during the summer season and holiday season and pray you can hold on until the tourists return.  Forever Books offers all new books (the store is very well-curated) and a variety of sidelines including book thongs and other literary-themed items.  One of their best events is a top 20 book symposium held three times a year.  The staff talks about a few of their favorite books and the attendees usually respond by buying some of the featured books.  The events are so popular that customers need to make a reservation.  I think this sounds like a great event idea.  

I could've talked to Robin, Diana, and Poppy all day.  These three couldn't have been nicer and I'm alway so appreciative of their time and talents.  I'm troubled only that more locals don't frequent this cute bookstore.  So I'm going to implore the regulars, when you return to the store, bring a friend with you.  Even if they're not a reader, they'll have lots of other items to browse.  Or they can certainly get some gift ideas.  But be warned, the importance of buy local, shop local is critical to a vibrant and healthy community.  Don't leave it to the tourists, lead the way St. Joseph.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Run Away, Harlan Coben.  If you haven't read this author I would encourage you to do so.  This mystery focuses on a couple's adult daughter who has become addicted to drugs and attached to the wrong crowd.  Their problem is they want to find her but don't know where she is until dad spots her in a park strumming Beatles tunes on a guitar.  Let the chase begin.  This one is a page-turner.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Golden Hill, Francis Spufford.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Another Good Dog: One Family And Fifty Foster Dogs, Cara Sue Achterberg.  

Step right in and let your adventure begin.  

Wonderful front window display.  

A nice courtesy in all bookstores.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

The perfect book display for after the holidays.  

A great place near the front of the store to sit and sample a book.  Or wait for Poppy.  

I always enjoy seeing the staff favorites displays.  Have you read any of these yet?  

Typical picture of Poppy on the go to greet a customer.  Receive Indie Bob bonus points if you can identify which end is which.   

In addition to his other talents, Poppy can also arrange a mean display of Poppy Popcorn.  

You know you're going to get a few books so you might as well get a tote to put them in.  

As with every other bookstore I visit, the socks sell well.  

An obvious award-winning bookstore business.  Congratulations Robin and gang!

The non-fiction staff favorites.  

Some of the games and activities available.  

The store offers a nice and varied assortment of sidelines.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A great place to sit your friends and take a post card picture.  

I've seen this in a few indies but not as many as you might think.  A book holder for your lap.  

A small portion of the items of local and regional interest.  

View looking back toward the children's section.  

An example of the creativity in the children's section.  

It's never too early to foster a love for books and reading.  

Ask your bookstore about this.  

And this!

Overview looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.  

Who wouldn't enjoy petting and meeting this cutie?!

This is the before picture.  Diana prepping Poppy for a photoshoot, something he's very used to.  

With Robin in front and Diana and Poppy in back, some of the fine folks you'll meet at Forever Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Bluestocking Bookshop - Holland, MI

The Bluestocking Bookshop, Holland, MI
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Holland, MI, population of approximately 33,000, is a really good bookstore town.  This is my second tour of Holland and I've already visited two wonderful bookstores.  It's just not fair though because now there's a third indie in Holland that's only a few months old.  There are so many towns  of similar size and larger with nothing and yet this town of 33,000 has three.   If only Holland could spread the bookstore wealth around!

The Bluestocking Bookshop offers all used books along with some collectible and vintage editions as well.  Collectors would be wise to keep an eye on the store's inventory since they just sold a multi-volume set of Harvard Classics to the Smithsonian.  Even though the store doesn't offer new books at this time, they can easily place an order for those at your request.  And if you can't visit the store you can always visit online and order there.  Bluestocking will offer customers store credit in exchange for the books they bring in.  In the store's brief history, owner Aimee C. is already very active with store and author events.  On the day of my visit she was hosting her weekly story time for kids.  The store offers only locally sourced sidelines and the line of Bloom products including lip balm and sanitizer is selling especially well.

I'm so happy to hear from Aimee that so far things are going very well.  And best of all, she's happy with this episode in life.  But here's the defining moment for this store's beginning.  Aimee had to be gone over the holidays and was prepared to close the store for a week (she's a one-person operation).  In true independent bookstore spirit, her circle of people wouldn't allow it so they told her not to close and they volunteered their time in order to keep Bluestocking open.  These are the kind of people that support indies nationwide.  Well done, Holland, well done.

Back in Victorian era England, there was a women's book club known as the Bluestockings.  Women who are literate and knowledgeable were the members.  Amiee's bookstore gives a nod to that history but the Bluestocking title for this store applies to all customers.  I don't think she'll be able to keep them away.  If you haven't visited here yet and you're in Holland, get with it.  Embrace this new indie and its wonderful owner for a terrific bookstore experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  Author In Chief, Craig Fehrman.  A fascinating historical look at our country's presidents, the books they read, and their many authorial aspirations through their writings.  The book also looks at the history of printing, the history of books, and even touches on the history of some of the country's early bookstores and places the presidents would frequent.  The information in this book is stuff you won't easily find in many of the presidential biographies.  The author's research is thoroughly comprehensive and if you're a history and/or president wonk, this is a must read.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Run Away, Harlan Coben.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Bridge Of Sighs, Richard Russo.  Waiting For Tom Hanks, Kerry Winfrey.  Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, Chris Cleave.

Beautiful storefront.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Alert readers will undoubtedly recognize the celebrity browsing the books.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

Wow!  Yes!  Right by the check-out counter.  

The locally produced Bloom products are selling very well.  

A very nice area to lounge and sample a book.  

You'll find this beautiful wall of books on the right side of the store.  

How many of you are old enough to remember sitting in a desk like this (possibly with some vulgarity and profanity carved into the desktop)?  Classic.  

Find these shelves for some affordable bargains.  

Pick a game, grab a hot drink, and hang out.  

Visual confirmed.  Unavailable on Amazon.  

I love that this store has lots of great places to sit.  

The store offers several items produced locally by the Well Read Nerd.  

Partial view of the children's section.  

The book art I see displayed in indies around the country is outstanding.  

A book re-fashioned into a piece of art.  

Even the outlets are treated creatively.  

An example of some of the fabulous art displayed throughout the store.  Some of these works are available for purchase.  

Stuart Woods fans need to pay this store a visit.  

It's lamps like these that give bookstores character.  

Some real gems shelved in the back of the store.  

The exact words running through the heads of every reader who visits this blog!

With Aimee, the fine owner at The Bluestocking Bookshop.  Thanks for a great visit.