Friday, October 31, 2014

The Odyssey Bookshop - South Hadley, MA

The Odyssey Bookshop - South Hadley, MA

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Have you ever been to one of those family reunions where you don't know a soul so you spend the day meeting all the relatives?  They're glad you finally came and enjoy talking about all the relatives (books!) that you know.  This was my day at Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA.  I met the matriarch (owner), Joan who was absolutely wonderful and she began introducing me to all the relatives (staff) that are here.  Cousin Hannah, niece Julie, nephews Michael and Mitch and who could forget the wonderful friend of the family, Bette, who is a local elementary school librarian.  I was the long lost relative who just stumbled in from Iowa.  On this day, I wandered into a terrific independent bookstore where I was welcomed enthusiastically and warmly by Joan and an entire staff of kindred spirits whose love of books connected us all.  Romeo Grenier would've been oh so proud and there's no doubt that the spirit of the original owner and founder was smiling down on this rare reunion.  This great experience and the people placed at Odyssey at this moment in time would've never happened without the leadership of Romeo and his vision for an independent bookstore.  Thanks Romeo!

This 2-level store is located in a small Massachusetts town and is also home to Mt. Holyoke College, an all-girls school.  The store is actively engaged with the school as well as the community which provide part of the customer base.  This part of Massachusetts is a "book" area so many customers also come from several nearby towns.  They host at least 150 author events annually and also host numerous book groups.  The majority of author events are held right in the store and they have good space to do this.  Another group with over 200 participants called the First Editions Club offers members a signed first printing of a newly published book once a month.  Something that might someday become a collectable.  If you're in the South Hadley area I would highly recommend joining this group.  Definitely something that other indies might want to consider.  All these groups, clubs, events, and students help bring business into the store and as Joan said, you can't just sit back and wait for people to show up.

Odyssey Books has lots of great sidelines, offers new and used books, and books and supplies for the students at Mt. Holyoke.  Downstairs there is a wonderful children's section and most of the adult fiction is here as well.  After my time here it's easy to see why this was one of the indies featured in My Bookstore, by Ron Rice.

So now my journey continues.  It's great to meet so many wonderful people but now I progress along my journey to meet more kindred souls in more independent bookstores.  I hope they're all as nice as the ones I met in The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley.  If you live near South Hadley and haven't been here yet, you're making a big mistake.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Days Of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante.  Husband unexpectedly leaves wife and two kids and the wife spends most of the book falling apart.  Decent book, some graphic language.

CURRENTLY READING:  End Of Days, James Swanson.  Just started, about the JFK assassination. I loved Swanson's Manhunt, about John Wilkes Booth.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Hawley Book Of The Dead, Chrysler Szarlan.  I had to get this one.  The author is also a part-time bookseller at The Odyssey Bookshop!

This is the entrance from the parking lot.  

This entrance from the parking lot goes into the lower level of Odyssey.  Children's section and adult fiction on this level.  

A great chair in the children's section.  You can pretend to read while your kids check out the books!

View to the right after entering the lower level of the store from the parking lot.  

A new addition to the children's section is this small play area.   Looking through the open window you can see my tech adviser, Fran M., seated in the adult fiction area.

A larger view of the children's section.  

Original owner and founder of the store, Romeo Grenier, Joan's father.  

This is the wall you see on the stairway down to the lower level of the store.  The wall is really a nice tribute to Romeo and his wife who started The Odyssey Bookshop.  

Some of the nice sidelines here.  

An area where the Mt. Holyoke students can get some of their supplies.  

Upper level of the store, looking in from the front door.  

Some great places to sit and try out a book.  

Lots of staff picks.  

Yes, they have magazines.  

Another area of their many sidelines on the upper level.  

With Joan, the owner.  

This is the area on the upper level where they hold author events.  Like many indies, they're able to roll the tables out of the way to add chairs.  

L-R, Hannah, a staffer, Joan, the owner, yours truly, and Bette, an elementary librarian.  I had a great time at Odyssey with all these people.  Thanks for a wonderful visit!  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Brookline Booksmith - Brookline, MA

Brookline Booksmith - Brookline, MA

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

How do I even begin to describe everything I saw here and everything that was shared with me by Paul, one of the fine staffers here and editor of the Brookline Booksmith newsletter?  I'm so lucky to enjoy trips to many indies and all of them are 5-star, each in their own, unique way.  This is just one more along the path of my unbelievable journey.

Name something you need.  Goofy socks?  Check.  Greeting cards?  Unique and unlimited supply.  Fake ugly teeth?  Check.  Halloween sh#t?  Check.  Reading glasses?  Duh.  Book bags?  Really?  Of course.  Gigantic wall-sized maps?  Yep.  Finger puppets?  Indeed.  Mugs, journals, blah blah blah.  Ok, Indie Bob, we get it.  They have lots of sidelines.  Boy, do they.  I can't even begin to tell you all the sidelines they have here.  Great stuff that you just can't find anywhere else.  And, yes, you will have to have it.

What about books?  The sidelines here are many and varied but they don't disguise the books.  2-levels of books, new and used.  In some cases, the shelves are floor to ceiling.  You can even get dollar books downstairs so I don't want to hear you cheapskates tell me you can't afford to buy independent.  The children's section is outstanding and they have staff members who are well versed in this genre.  The customer base is largely local but they do some business with tourists as well.  There is a very active event schedule and most events are held on-site downstairs.  For large crowds, they are able to hold the events conveniently across the street in the Coolidge Theater.  There is no cafĂ© here but don't worry, on one side of the store is a Starbuck's and the other side is a Peet's Coffee and Tea.  And after all that go two blocks down Harvard St. to another great stop, Zaftigs Delicatessen.

I enjoyed a great, great conversation with Paul while I was here.  He was extremely knowledgeable and I can't possibly recall everything he shared with me.  But the history of this store has an ironic turning point.  Several years ago a Barnes & Noble opened just down the street from Brookline Booksmith.  This was a very dark cloud over the small store's future.  It was clearly a predatory more by a large chain with no desire to co-exist.  The staff gathered.  What do we do, how do we survive?  The decision was made to take customer service to the ultimate extreme, everything and anything.  As well as expanding the incredible selection and volume of sidelines.  Brookline Booksmith has been here since 1961 and continues to go strong.  It's large chain competitor?  Gone.  Bravo Brookline Booksmith!

When you visit this indie you will have a great time.  Lots of inventory of everything.  Pick out a sideline that you won't be able to find anywhere else.  And definitely get a book from this outstanding indie in Brookline.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

EPILOG:  I didn't meet Dana, the owner, on my first day at Brookline Booksmith so I went back two days after because of Paul's encouragement.  Returning to Brookline Booksmith was like reading a great book twice.  Not only did I meet and talk to Dana but I also enjoyed meeting Lisa, one of the fine staffers here.  Both of these ladies were extremely nice and patiently took time to talk to  me when their store was very busy.  Just another reason to visit this indie in a really cool neighborhood in Brookline.  Thanks for a great visit, Brookline Booksmith.

RECENTLY FINISHED:  So Big, Edna Ferber.  Originally published in 1924 and was, well, big in its day.  Story of a woman and her son, trying to survive in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  I liked it, didn't love it.  Thanks Big!

CURRENTLY READING:  The Days Of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante.  So far so good.

A portion of the great window display.  

This is the view you'll get walking in the front door.  

Seasonal greeting cards.  

Downstairs for events and GREAT book bargains.  

My graphic design artist, Cheryl M., looking for a sideline she can't live without.  She and her husband are part of the Indie Bob tech support team.  

Part of the great book inventory.  

The left side of the store lives in its own world, Giftsmith.  This is a great non-book section of the store.  

The map section.  Something Indie Bob really needs on this journey!  

Just a portion of the great children's section.  

Any finger puppet imagineable.  

The store bestsellers.  

Great display of staff picks.  

Just look at this inventory of books downstairs.  

Here you go, bargain hunters.  

With Paul on the left, staffer and editor of the store newsletter.  

Dana, the owner on the left with Lisa, one of the staffers.  

With Dana, the owner of this great indie.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Longfellow Books - Portland, ME

Longfellow Books - Portland, ME

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Here's the skinny about Longfellow Books in Portland, ME.  Thriving and successful going on 14 years.  A featured indie in, My Bookstore, by Ron Rice.  An email newsletter delivered to over 15,000 people.  A locally owned, award-winning business.  A knowledgeable and friendly staff and an extremely passionate owner.  Basically, this indie kicks butt and takes names!

Some places I visit on my journey just have a vibe and this is one of them.  This place has an energy and vibrancy that is undeniable.  The whole time during my visit there were customers coming and going.  The store has new and used books and many sidelines, but not overwhelmingly so.  Newspapers, magazines, assorted greeting cards and novelties can all be found here.  The sidelines are important to the profit margin but make no mistake the books are the main story (pun intended!) here.  The customer base is strongly local and the store is totally engaged.  Author events are frequent and held on site in this one-level store, but occasionally will be held at another venue depending on the crowd.  There is a cat here in this independent and if you visit and think it is absolutely the most adorable creature on earth, you can adopt it and take it home.  Lots of indies have cats, how many let you adopt one?  What a great public service.

When I visit these indies I don't always get to meet the owners but I lucked out today.  If you look up in the dictionary,"passionate bookstore owner," you'll see a picture of Chris, the owner here at Longfellow.  In between transactions and other customers, I got to talk to Chris quite a bit about the store and independent bookstores in general.  Chris shared with me that he is starting to feel the pendulum swing back toward independents.  As I travel the country, I'm getting this sense from others as well.  He was great with his time and very amiable to talk with me as were several of his staff members, including Ian and Charlie.  And if that weren't enough, while I was there author Bill Roorbach came in and I got to meet and talk to him.  Five minutes before he arrived I had just bought his new book, The Remedy For Love, highly recommended to me by Chris and others while here on my visit.  This was one magical day.

For most midwesterners, Portland, Maine is a remote outpost with little to offer.  Readers, this trip has certainly changed my thinking and I encourage you to add it to your places to visit.  This indie is located in downtown Portland and there are a lot of things to see and do here.  Heck, even if you don't buy a book go across the street and visit the beautiful public library.  But you will visit Longfellow Books on your trip here and you'll find out what everybody around here already knows.  This place is a giant among the indies.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh.  Hilarious and I loved it.  Especially some of the dog stories.

CURRENTLY READING:  So Big, Edna Ferber.  Almost finished.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Remedy For Love, Bill Roorbach.

Window displays at Longfellow.

They may have a cat in the store but they don't discriminate!

Looking to the right of the store and some of the sidelines upon entering.  

Looking straight into the store from the front door.  

Display of bestsellers at Longfellow.  The one I bought is top left.  

Some of the staff picks.  

Need a magazine?  Get it here!

Great selection of greeting cards.  

Sideline displays.  

Lots of books with local and regional interest.  

Have a seat and try out a book.  

This room is off to the right after you enter.  Majority of the books are here.  

A great children's area.  

I didn't see the cat but it can sometimes be found here.  

Chris, the owner at Longfellow and a great ambassador and spokesman for independent bookstores.  Thanks for a great visit, Chris.  

A chance meeting and brush with greatness for me.  Author, Bill Roorbach on the left.