Monday, March 30, 2015

Lemuria Bookstore - Jackson, MS

Lemuria Books - Jackson, MS
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There is LOTS to like about this independent bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi.  If this indie were a woman, she would be a 10.  A knockout!  If this indie were a Broadway show, it would feature a talented cast of thousands.  If this indie were a hotel, it would be a 5-star (and it would be too expensive for me to visit!).  I think you get my drift.  A fine store with fine people and a long, solid history of selling books.

This truly is an attractive store.  Well organized with lots of little nooks and crannies.  Everything is on one level but they have quite a bit of space.  There aren't many sidelines here, but John E., the owner, told me he'd rather not add many sidelines.  He does make an exception however, by offering an extensive inventory of signed 1st editions.  He considers this his best sideline business.  There is also a good selection of regional interests books and if you're looking for collectable books, check out what they have.  The store is very active with author events held at the warehouse location in the same area (I thought this was actually the bookstore when I arrived.  Long story, don't ask!).  Business has been down slightly but thanks to a devoted local customer base, it is holding steady.

As with all indies, each one has its own unique challenges and Lemuria is no different.  Part of their budget covers a security guard that makes $50,000/year, an expense that many other indies don't incur.  At this indie though, it's an investment against the possibility of losses that could be greater than $50,000.  Another challenge is the continued growth of the business.  This store is located on a frontage road along I-55 making foot traffic minimal at best.  Lemuria has to rely on customers who are willing to drive here.  Unfortunately, due to the crime rate in Jackson, many are not willing to visit here.  Readers, I am telling you this as clearly as I can, do not let a drive or misperceptions keep you from visiting this bookstore.  The store has been here for 27 years (and in business for 40 years).  You can't afford to miss this place because that longevity means John and his staff know what they're doing!

And this store's staff is the cast of thousands.  As far as I can tell, John has surrounded himself with lots of talent.  Justin, who is able to give excellent directions over the phone to a lost customer (me!).  Elizabeth and Marianna who continued to try and sell me books all the way to the end of my visit.  Hannah, who took care of The Indie Bob Spot photo shoot.  Maggie, who says The Fifth Gospel is a recommended read and also showed me the deluxe bathroom ( remember, Amazon doesn't have bathrooms), wall-papered with employees pictures past and present.  Everyone in the store who says the new book by M. O. Walsh, My Sunshine Away is a "must read."  And the two wonderful ladies in the children's section whose names I didn't even get but sold me the new Kate DiCamillo book, Flora & Ulysses, that I'm looking forward to.  Bravo John, for a great store and your wonderful staff.

What else?  Free parking and no cat.  That's a win-win in my book!  But YOUR book can be found at Lemuria Books in Jackson.  There's a reason it's featured in My Bookstore, by Ron Rice.  When you visit, you'll see why.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Team Of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Outstanding.  True account of Abraham Lincoln and his rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination and how those rivals became assets in his administration.  For anyone with a passing interest in history, this is a must read.  Doris Kearns Goodwin is an outstanding historian and author who I think is brilliant.  Her research is impeccable.  Highly recommended but I know not everyone will like this one.  A Doubtful Guest, Edward Gorey.  Short, illustrated book of a story told with rhymes.  If you're looking for a great 5 minute read, this is it. Exactly what I needed after Team Of Rivals.

CURRENTLY READING:  A Civil Action, Jonathan Harr.  So far so good.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Nothing Gold Can Stay, Ron Rash.  Flora & Ulysses, Kate DiCamillo.

This is not the bookstore.  This is the warehouse and also where author events are held.  I did everything I could to figure out how to get in here until an employee came out and had pity on me and told me where to go.  To the bookstore.  

View to the right from the entrance.  There is another entrance directly into the children's section from the parking lot.  

View just inside the entrance.  You'll be purchasing your books at that counter on the left.  

One of the book aisles.  

Find your Mississippi Delta blues CD here.  

My kind of seat!

Further into the store and the help desk.  If you look real hard, you can see Marianna and Justin.  

Another view.  Very open area.  

Another GREAT place to sit and try out a book.  

If they have a book signing in the store, this is the area.  But if there isn't a book signing, this would totally be my hangout.  

Get your hip readers here.  

A nice picture book of Jackson, published by Lemuria.  If you live in Jackson, this book is a must.  

A portion of the children's section.  

More children's section.  There is an entrance right behind where I took this picture.  

With John, the fine owner of Lemuria Bookstore.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Square Books - Oxford, MS

Square Books - Oxford, MS
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This really isn't a bookstore.  It's more like a CAMPUS.  There's bookstores everywhere in this town.  Heck, there's so many you can't throw a rock without hitting one.  Yes readers, I know I exaggerate.  But you will find three great bookstores on the historic square of Oxford, MS.  I never know what to anticipate on these visits but everything here exceeded my expectations in every way.

Square Books is located in a corner building that is well over a century old.  Before becoming a bookstore this building was a drugstore where you could also grab some Fortune Ice Cream.  Now it houses a two-level bookstore with a mezzanine level, all jam packed with books.  There are lots of places to sit on both levels and there is also an outdoor porch on the 2nd level you can go to when the weather is nice.  There are some sidelines here but you'll find many more at the Off Square Books, in the next block.  They also have used books and remainders in Off Square Books.  Customers who bring in books can receive cash or store credit, but the better deal is store credit.  Off Square Books is also where they hold author events, of which there are many.  I'm sorry to say you won't find a children's section in Square Books.  But that's ok, they have their own store for that, Square Books Junior, also located on the square and easy walking distance.  How impressive it is that they have a separate store just for children?!

It was wonderful to meet Richard H., the owner, and Lyn, the manager.  They were very gracious to talk to me about the store and the business, a business that has been around since the 70s and in its current location since the 80s.  Richard indicated to me that community support is strong and there is also good business with tourists as well as with those associated with the university, Ole Miss.  I also enjoyed talking to Leita, Paul, and Jill over at Square Books Junior, all of them great ambassadors for Square Books.  Another reason for the longevity of this fine indie is that there is no chain bookstore here.  This town of approximately 20,000 is too small for the chains which is an advantage for Square Books.

When I was talking to Richard I compared this place to Powell's in Portland, OR and all its stores.  He smiled, thought for a moment, and said, "maybe an infant Powell's!"  Make a point of visiting this bookstore in Oxford.  Soak up some history, feel the spirit of William Faulkner, sense a John Grisham novel around the courthouse, check out all the framed pictures of authors who have visited, and carve out enough time to visit all three of these wonderful stores of Square Books.  I can guarantee you won't leave empty handed.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger.  Summer of 1961 and a Methodist minister and his family in a small Minnesota town deal with tragedies in the community.  This book is outstanding.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Team Of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Knight's Gambit, William Faulkner.  If you're in Oxford, MS, you pick up a Faulkner.  Ever Is A Long Time, W. Ralph Eubanks.

I couldn't resist this picture.  The historic courthouse in the square.  Viewed from Square Books.  All I can think about when I see this are John Grisham novels.  

A great window display.  Conscientious readers may notice the rare celebrity sighting on the right.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Another fine window display.  

View looking into the store from the entrance.  

A great place to sit and try out a book.
A great display of staff picks.  
Take these steps upstairs to find these sections.  Get your coffee at the cafe on the second level.  

The walls of the entire store are covered with framed photos of authors who have visited here.  

Great seating upstairs to read a book.  

Some greeting cards here at Square Books.  LOTS of sidelines down the street at Off Square Books.  

In this store you have fiction...

... and then you have Faulkner.  

Signed books and signed first editions can be found here.  

A portion of the local interests you can find here.  

View of the mezzanine level.  

View of the bookstore looking toward the front, from the mezzanine level.  

A few additional sidelines and some great seats!

I love this display for books and the artistry of this cabinet.  

The balcony here has a storied history of author gatherings.  When they rebuilt it, the original balcony pieces became a sideline.  You won't find this at any other indie!  

Off Square Books.  Think of it as a lifestyle store with the variety of sidelines and selection of used books.  Author events are also held here.  

View looking toward the rear of Off Square Books.  An eager customer jumped in front of my camera as I was taking the picture.  

Unique socks that you won't find anywhere else.  

This is in the rear of Off Square Books and the area where the authors hold their events.  

Looking from the rear of Off Square Books toward the front of the store.  Some towns don't even have something this good for their primary bookstore, if they have a bookstore at all.  

You will find bargains here.  

Square Books Junior, the children's bookstore.  Square Books was originally located on the 2nd floor of this space.  

View of Square Books Junior looking to the back of the store from the entrance.  

More than just books here.  

From the rear of Square Books Junior looking toward the front of the store.  

Richard on the left and Lyn in the middle.  Thanks for a great visit! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Booksellers At Laurelwood - Memphis, TN

The Booksellers At Laurelwood - Memphis, TN
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More, more, and more!  When you visit The Booksellers At Laurelwood in Memphis you will be amazed at all the "more."  This place has more, or at least as much, as any indie I've visited.  Magazines, greeting cards, sidelines, purses, and, well, you get the idea.  But the best "more" of all?  More southern hospitality than I could've imagined.

The next time you visit here, bring one of your non-reading friends with you.  If they can't find something, they aren't trying.  I can't convey to you accurately the overall volume and variety of sidelines.  Everything from the usual greeting cards and t-shirts to CDs, DVDs, clothes, fashion accessories, games and puzzles, and more.  I really can't overstate all that they have here.  I didn't meet Neil, the owner, on this visit but the excellent sidelines offered here are part of his vision for this independent bookstore.

And of course, there are lots of books.  The store is all one-level but it is a huge one level.  Despite their large inventory, however, it doesn't feel cramped or crowded.  New and used books are offered and the store offers credit towards new book purchases, similar to other indies.  There is a huge children's section that is very active with reading events and according to Eddie B., the general manager, the place is so packed it's like "the Woodstock of story times!"  The store has a very active author events schedule and a great space to host them.  There is also a bistro (this is way more than a café) located in the store and it is as nice as anything I've seen in a bookstore.  It has a spacious seating area inside and outside seating when the weather permits.  The store is located as part of the Laurelwood shopping center.  A great location in a highly populated area surrounded by lots of shopping options.  This location enables Booksellers to have and maintain a strong local customer base.  They also do some business with text books since there are several colleges nearby.

But the best "more" of all?  The "more" enthusiasm, kindness, and southern hospitality of the staff members I met.  I'm so lucky on this journey to meet so many wonderful people.  Eddie B, general manager, Nicole Y., the marketing director, Macon W., the events coordinator, and Joanne and Mark, two of the fine booksellers.  I had a great time talking to all of these people.  I'm always a little tentative outside of the midwest, not knowing if I'll find the same kind of friendliness.  No worries.  I've decided it must be a bookstore thing!

This place looks like a chain store, smells like a chain store, and quacks like a chain store.  But oh my, it isn't.  This is one strong, vibrant independent bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Shadow Of The Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  A CD gift, Hide Away, John Kilzer.  Thanks Joanne.

Another exterior view.  Lots of free parking.

This was formerly Davis-Kidd Booksellers many years ago.  

Just inside the entryway, not really in the store.  

View looking into the store from main entrance.  

Looking to the left from the entrance.  

Looking to the right from the entrance.  

Bring your books back and get store credit.  You can get more books!  

Great staff picks display.  

Some sidelines.  

More sidelines.  

One of the book aisles.  

A portion of the children's section.  

This is in the children's section, the scene of the "Woodstock of story times!"  Makes me wish I had been there for one of these!

Sidelines for kids.  

A portion of the events space.  The author would be looking out from this vantage point.  

I think this place has every magazine imaginable.  This is only a few of them.  

I'm all over seats like these!

Sidelines of interest for the women.  

This display means nothing to me but I'm sure there are many of you who will find this of interest.  

More unique sidelines.  

Stay within your budget here.  

Spacious inside seating area at The Bistro.  

Go to a bookstore, a bistro, AND hear music!  How much better could it get?!

A portion of the CDs and DVDs section.  

Kate Spade anyone?

Another unique sideline.  

A portion of the local interests and authors section.  

I love it that there are a lot of places to sit here.  

I don't know Sloane Ranger but I'm guessing many of you do.  

I don't always see these in bookstores.  You'll need one of these here.  You won't be stopping at one item!  

L-R, Yours truly, Macon, Nicole, & Eddie.  Thanks for a great visit!