Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Bookstore - Glen Ellyn, IL

The Bookstore - Glen Ellyn, IL

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

If you're not smiling when you walk into this bookstore you will be by the time you leave.  There's no need for drugs when you can spend time around booksellers like Jenny, Renee, and Sue.  And as if that isn't enough, you can enjoy spending time in a wonderful independent bookstore in suburban Chicago.

Jenny's approximate words to me were, "We have a great staff chemistry here.  We look forward to coming to work and we have a lot of fun."  If you have great chemistry AND work in a bookstore, what could be better and how could it not be fun?  Heck, send me an application!  When a store has this it filters through to its customers and other people.  It becomes contagious.  I was here on a week day morning and could see and feel the chemistry with the customers.  The place was busy and the place was happy.  Two great components for any independent bookstore.

The store itself is located on the downtown Main St. of Glen Ellyn, an excellent location.  If you take the Metra here from Chicago it is a very short walk to the store.  The store is small to average sized, with everything located on one level.  There is an especially good assortment of greeting cards but other than that, there are not many sidelines.  The customer base is largely local with plenty of regulars.  This is what happens for a business that has been around for over 50 years.  The store also hosts occasional author and book events and if you need a book but can't get to the store, you can always order online.  They're meticulous about their book inventory here.  They don't just throw anything on the shelves but try to limit it to books the staff has read and can recommend or is familiar with.  It seems to me this would make for a great staff of booksellers!

I didn't get to meet Jane or Tim, the co-owners, on this visit, but I had a fabulous time meeting and talking to Jenny, Renee, and Sue.  If you look up the definition of "nice people who are also booksellers," you'll see the pictures of these three.  They were so nice to talk to me and tell me so much about the store and the area.  And the customers I talked to were just as nice as the booksellers.  There are no cats here but I had the best chat with a friendly dog, Suni.  Readers, do you see why I am enjoying this bookstore journey so much?!

Jane and Tim are the 4th ownership of The Bookstore.  This place is established and the roots run deep.  There is no reason the success at this store can't move forward well into the future.  I know all of you visit Chicago on business or vacations.  You now have another place to visit when you're in the area.  Check out this great indie and the wonderful people you will meet here.  Go to an indie and buy a book. Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Didn't.  The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan.  This was a book of the year pick in Ireland.  Highly recommended by many.  Many of you will like this book.  It just didn't grab me.

CURRENTLY READING:  Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves, P. G. Wodehouse.  Thoroughly enjoying it.  Read it with a British accent in your head and you'll be fine.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper.

Great window display with a seasonal theme.  

I absolutely love this sign!  This is true everywhere I go!

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

Display of what local book clubs are reading.  Another great way to bring customers into the store.  

Staff picks located at the front of the store.  

Have a seat in this chair and try out a book.  Or a magazine.  

Renee on the left and Jenny on the right.  Thanks for a great visit!  

Do you need to see a cat in a bookstore?  You'll have to settle for this at this one.  

Great selection of greeting cards.  

Part of the children's section toward the rear of the store.  

View from the back of the store looking toward the front.  

The booksellers at this store not only know all their regular customers by name, they also know the customer's dogs by name.  This is Suni, dressed for the season!  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Carmichael's Bookstore - Louisville, KY

Carmichael's Bookstore - Louisville, KY

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

Small but mighty.  Not too small either, just cozy small.  This store has a very comfortable feel to it, like your favorite worn slippers or your favorite old sweater.  Even though it's small, it's packed with a great inventory of books.  You'll need to carve out some time in your schedule when you visit here because this fine indie will grow on you.

There are actually three Carmichael's in the Louisville area so that should be your first clue that this indie is doing well.  I visited the one in the Crescent Hill location which is the one featured in My Bookstore, by Ron Rice.  This store is a one-level business that offers some sidelines including greeting cards, journals, planners, t-shirts, holiday themed items, and other miscellaneous gifts in addition to a lot of great new books.  They have a small children's section here but if you're looking for a larger inventory of children's books I would encourage you to also check out their Carmichael's Kids Bookstore.  This entire store IS the children's section!  The Crescent Hill store holds frequent author and book events, most of them right on site.  If they're expecting a big crowd for a big name author they have some options off-site.  Business here is mostly local and well-supported.  The location is great for foot traffic and there was a steady stream on the day of my visit.  They also have a great relationship with many of the schools and a department specifically for handling that business.

I didn't get to meet the owners on this visit but I did get to meet their daughter, Miranda B., the manager, and Kate, a bookseller.  Both of these ladies were absolutely wonderful to talk to and were so patient to visit with me while conducting a steady business with customers in the store as well as taking many calls.  What a great sign at any indie!  Miranda's parents are the owners and have been successful in the bookstore business since the late 1970s.  From my observations, I see no reason why this success shouldn't continue well into the future.  Louisville, you're lucky!

So when you visit Louisville you have many options.  Carmichael's Crescent Hill location?  Carmichael's Bardstown Road location?  Carmichael's Kids location?  I have your solution, readers.  Of course, you can't play favorites with your children or pick that one favorite book.  Your only choice is to visit all three.  It's only fair.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Remedy For Love, Bill Roorbach.  Two people trying to survive the winter storm of the century in a dilapidated cabin in the Maine backwoods.  There was so much snow and cold that I got cold reading it!  Good book but I was frustrated by the ending.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Spinning Heart, Donal Ryan.  Just started.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Sycamore Row, John Grisham.  When Books Went To War, Molly Guptill Manning.

Another great exterior view of Carmichael's.  

Window display and a great place to sit outside when the weather is nice.  

Great in-store promotional idea.  

View looking toward the back of the store from the front entrance.  No doubt you customary readers recognize the celebrity marching her way into the store, my mom!  

A nice place in the front of the store to sit and try out a book.  

A few of the staff favorites.  

Some of the seasonal sidelines.  

A few more of the sidelines.  

Lots of magazines to pick from located at the rear of the store.  

A great selection of planners and journals.  

The children's section located in the rear of the store.  

View from the rear of the store looking toward the front entrance.  

This is THE rivalry in this part of the country.  

Assorted newspapers, local and national.  

If you visit the Crescent Hill location take time to visit with these fine booksellers.  Miranda B.,  on the left, and Kate on the right.  Thanks for a great visit!  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Parnassus Books - Nashville, TN

Parnassus Books - Nashville, TN

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

In the words of my mom, "My God, that place was crowded," and, "That place was so crowded I couldn't even move."  Music to the ears of bookstore owners here at Parnassus and everywhere.  This indie is one of the bookstores featured in My Bookstore, by Ron Rice, and it's easy to see why.  A great location, well-staffed and friendly, co-owned by a former book sales rep and a best-selling author, free parking, and on my visit, one friendly dog.  It all adds up to make a perfect storm for a successful independent bookstore business.

This store is located in the Green Hills area of Nashville.  This is a mega-retail area and shopping options are everywhere.  This works great for Parnassus.  The store is one level with all new books and includes a great children's section in the rear.  There are a few sidelines, but make no mistake books are the business here and on the weekday afternoon of my visit business was booming.  The store also has frequent author and book events, the majority of which are held right on site.  For large events that may attract more than 100 people, the store has a great partnership with local libraries which provides options for those occasions.

Author Ann Patchett and Karen H., a former book sales rep, co-own Parnassus and it is a great partnership.  Both of these ladies have enough experience that lends itself well in knowing what works and what doesn't in a bookstore.  The store has only been around for three years but it is clearly poised for a long, successful run.  I didn't get to meet Ann on this visit but I did meet Karen and had a great chat with her.  She and the store were very busy on this day so I felt quite fortunate that she was able to talk to me about Parnassus.

I know these ladies are good at what they do here, but my best conversation was with Grace, one of the booksellers.  Unsolicited, she told me these two ladies are fantastic.  Great people to work for and they really know their stuff and their business.  I think if I were to open a store or knew someone who needed bookstore advice, I would arrange a meeting with these two.  Grace is the picture of a happy bookseller and is a wonderful ambassador for the store (Note to Karen & Ann: this girl is good!  I think she deserves a raise!).  And a happy bookseller is a good bookseller!

So when you plan your trip to the Grand Ole Opry or a Tennessee Titans football game, you have one more important stop.  A great little bookstore will be waiting for you in a wonderful shopping district.  Take your copy of Bel Canto just in case Ann is in.  Then browse the aisles, pet Bear, and pick out a book.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Being Mortal, Atul Gawande.  Non-fiction.  Author is a doctor and writes about how we need to re-examine the care given to senior citizens and also how we need to change the status quo in care centers, assisted living, and retirement homes.  Enlightening and very good.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Remedy For Love, Bill Roorbach.  I met the author in Portland, ME at Longfellow Books.  So far so good.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Eyre Affair, Jason Fforde.

Great seasonal window display.  

I ALWAYS like it if I see a dog inside!

View looking to the right of the store after entering.  

View looking from the front entrance to the back of the store.  

You'll find t-shtirts and magazines here.  

Schedule of events at the store.  

You won't be buying just one book so make sure you pick up a shopping basket at the front of the store.  

Local authors and interests.  

Great chairs to sit in and enjoy sampling a book.  

A nice selection of greeting cards.  

Look for the above topics in this room.  

A small door for small readers.  The children's section in the rear of the store.  Don't worry big people, you don't have to go in this entrance!  

A portion of the children's section.  

A few more sidelines.  

This is Bear and he is one friendly dog!  

With Karen H., co-owner.  Thanks for a great visit!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Burke's Books - Memphis, TN

Burke's Books - Memphis, TN

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

How in the world does an independent bookstore survive multiple ownerships, multiple locations, multiple decades, and yet continues to succeed and thrive?  Heck, how does any independent bookstore make it at all?  According to Cheryl C., the co-owner here along with her husband Corey, it's tenacity.  She told me that, "you just dig your fingernails in and hang on."  I don't need to tell you other indie owners this.  She also added the obvious and what many others have told me, the need to have a real and deep passion for the business.  That comes out loud and clear at this terrific indie in Memphis.

This one-level bookstore is located in the Cooper Young neighborhood of Memphis.  The area here is slowly evolving and, for lack of a better word, becoming more hip.  This is all the better for Burke's Books and that along with the nearby residential area is having a positive effect on the store and its location.  This location provides good foot traffic and this has made a nice improvement in business over the former location.

The store itself offers new and used books as well as collectable and vintage books.  The book buy-back program offers cash or store credit and as with most other indies that offer used books, store credit is the better deal.  Cheryl told me that the collectables include many esoteric and unique books that are difficult to find in other places.  She said that they don't need to really hunt for these books to place them here, the customers with these books to sell seem to find them.  One of my favorite things about this store was lots of chairs!  Thank you Burke's Books!  Multiple chairs in every aisle so you can take your time browsing books.

On the day of my visit, I had a great time talking to Cheryl, and Sue, one of the staffers here.  They were both wonderful to talk to and told me a lot about the store and its history, Memphis, and of course more book recommendations.  Cheryl said that their store has weathered many peaks and valleys but feels that things are now trending upward.  A good sign for all indies.

I know that all you Elvis fans will be coming here on your pilgrimage to Graceland and when you do, you can pay a visit to this nice neighborhood and a fine independent bookstore.  In the meantime, go to the store's website and support this indie by ordering a book online.  Readers, see how easy I'm making it for you?  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

RECENTLY FINISHED:  Tell No One, Harlan Coben.  Fantastic.  One of the best page-turners I've ever read.  I've never read anything by this author but now I'll have to keep him in mind.  How his mind created this incredible mystery is unbelievable.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Being Mortal, Atul Gawande.  Non-fiction.  Getting a lot of buzz.  So far so good.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Patrick Melrose Novels, Edward St. Aubyn.

Another exterior view before entering.  

Sign on the side of the building next to a large parking lot with free parking.  

One of the window displays.  

Find some bargain books outside.  

View looking straight through the store from the entrance.  Some of you more established readers may recognize the celebrity already diving into a book to buy, my mom.  

Vintage and collectables located here, near the front entrance.  

A very comfy place to try a book.  

There are little to no sidelines here but you can find famous finger puppets!

With the co-owner, Cheryl.  Thanks for a great visit!

Show your children what a typewriter looks like.  

New paperbacks, near the front of the store.  

If comics are your thing, you'll find them here.  

Local authors and many local interest books.  

Looking straight back through the main aisle of the store.  Books are on bookshelves extending from the side walls creating many side aisles.  

All the side aisles have chairs.  Hallelujah!

One of the fancier chairs.  

Looking from the rear of the store toward the front entrance.