Saturday, May 30, 2015

Downtown Books & Coffee - Auburn, NY

Downtown Books & Coffee - Auburn, NY

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Readers, I have some good news for you about independent bookstores in the state of New York.  You don't have to go just to NYC to find a book store.  If you visit the Finger Lakes region in central New York, you'll find a perfectly delightful bookstore in the downtown district of the small historical town of Auburn, New York.  And history buffs be forewarned, you won't want to leave this historical town or the bookstore located on the main street downtown.

Some of the big sellers in this bookstore are any books about history, especially Lincoln or William Henry Seward and Harriet Tubman, to name just a few.  I thought there was a lot of history in the town of Hillsborough, NC when I visited Purple Crow Books, but this town has just as much.

Downtown Books & Coffee has been open for about 5 years and the business is doing reasonably well thanks to strong local support, an indie trademark.  Tourist business picks up in the summer months due to the many historical sites and they also generate some business with the local community college.  The store is quite active with author events, usually held on-site but they do have the option of using a nearby theater for larger crowds.  The store also offers some great deals with used books if you're looking for a bargain.  The used books are all donated so this is clear profit, a sweet deal.  There are few sidelines here, but the store has a nice little coffee shop and offers a self-publishing service which many local authors take advantage of.  They also have a kids book club that meets in the store.

I didn't meet John C., the owner, on this visit but I had a great talk with Ryan, one of the booksellers, while I was here.  He told me a lot about the store and town and emphasized the importance of their local customers.  All the more important in a town of only 27,000+.

Cat lovers will be disappointed at this store because there is no cat.  But history lovers and book lovers will feel like they hit the jackpot.  You're going to love this wonderful town and the great bookstore you'll find here.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Shadow Of The Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.  More than a few people I've met have told me this is their all time favorite and I can see why.  Impossible to summarize in a sentence or two.  A boy grows up in a bookstore in Barcelona and becomes driven to find out about an obscure author of an obscure book.  The further you read the further it pulls you in.   It's epic and literary.  Outstanding.

CURRENTLY READING:  The H-Bomb And The Jesus Rock, John Manderino.

A great window display.  

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

Some of the local authors who have used the publishing services at this store.  A great way to get your book out.  

A good display of the new releases and a portion of the local interest books.  

Many of the authors who have appeared here have signed this wall at the front door.  

Need a bargain?  You'll find it here.  

Stephen Colbert shows you a few of the sidelines available.  

A great place to sit and try a book.  

Come on people, this is cheaper than a fancy coffee, pick one out!  

The small coffee shop right inside the store.  

A portion of the children's section.  

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

A kids book club is a great way to bring kids and their families into the store.  

Most indies are happy to place your special orders.  

If I lived in Auburn, I would want someone to get me one of these for Christmas.  

A proud milepost at any indie.  

With Ryan on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Book Mouse - Ottawa, IL

The Book Mouse - Ottawa, IL

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As with many of my bookstore visits, this one was a referral.  Larry D., the owner at Books On First in Dixon, IL asked if I'd been to The Book Mouse in Ottawa.  Mission accomplished, put a check mark in the box.  I'd also heard about The Book Mouse from a few others so I knew this must be a good one.  A bookstore doesn't survive for 22 years without doing a few things right.  Clearly, Eileen F., the owner, is staying on top of things and doing a nice job at this independent bookstore.

When I entered this store, I bolstered the population inside to 5 breathing entities.  One cat, two degus, myself, and one young enthusiastic and knowledgeable bookseller, Matt.  I didn't get to meet Eileen on this day but she left the store in capable hands with Matt.  He was great to talk to and he did it while helping a steady stream of customers, a great sign.  He shared a lot with me about the store, its history and business, and of course, all things books.  The store, like many indies, has challenges but they're continually looking for ways to reshape and refocus in order to improve business.  There is no doubt that the roots of this store run deep and are heavliy dependent on the community and local business.  They have a great partnership with 6 nearby schools and are able to offer book fairs.  They're very active with author events, both in the store and off-site.  The Book Mouse offers a monthly toddler time which is a great way to bring kids and parents into the store.  There is a very good selection and variety of sidelines, especially those that would be appealing to kids.  All of this along with an excellent location right on the main street of town adds up to a successful independent bookstore.  There are so many towns and communities that would love to have something like The Book Mouse.

This bookstore is very easy to find since Ottawa is located just off Interstate 80.  Ottawa is a town with many small independent businesses like The Book Mouse and it is a nice place to visit.  The "shop  local" slogan for businesses is strong here.  You can take advantage of free on-street parking and check out all these wonderful places.  Just make sure you save time and visit an independent bookstore with a long tradition and the nice people who work there.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Shadow Of The Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness.

Another view of The Book Mouse.  

A great front window display.  

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

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

Great area in the front of the store to have a seat and try out a book.  

Lots of wonderful sidelines, especially for the kids.  

Or get some nice scented candles.  

Lots of greeting cards to choose from.  

There are no live mice at The Book Mouse.  This is why.  

A variety of other mice.  After all, this IS The Book Mouse!  

Inside this cage are two degus.  The store used to have chinchillas but now they have degus.  These two are about the size of a couple of gerbils.  

A portion of the local interest and regional selections.  

Nice places to sit while the kids head back to the children's section.  

A portion of the children's section.  

Lots of art supplies.  

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

Need a pencil?  LOTS of great choices!

Some of the book club selections.  

With Matt, on the right, the fine bookseller at The Book Mouse.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Purple Crow Books - Hillsborough, NC

Purple Crow Books - Hillsborough, NC

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Here it is again readers, another small populated town able to support and sustain an independent bookstore.  But there is a BIG difference with this town of approximately 6000 and many of the others I've visited.  This town was named the most literary small town in America by the Wall Street Journal.  So you shrug your shoulders and say big deal, right?  Yeah, well, it is a big deal because there are a couple of dozen established and published authors that call Hillsborough home.  That's what I call one literary town.  People like Allan Gurganus, Lee Smith, Thomas J. Campanella, Michael Malone, Frances Mayes, and Jill McCorkle, just to name a very few because there are SO many more.  If Purple Crow would ever stumble, and I doubt that will happen, you'll have authors galore riding to the rescue of this super indie.

One of the disappointments in my travels is that I can't spend more time in the places I visit.  This town absolutely oozes history so history buffs will love visiting here.  Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Todd Lincoln's seamstress, was a slave here.  There's a signer of the Declaration Of Independence buried here.  And there's a bookstore that fits nicely with all of this.  Of the 90+ bookstores I've visited up to this point, Purple Crow is in the top 5 for smallness.  The store features a main room of adult fiction and a 2nd room of all children's books that is very popular.  There are a few sidelines including individual greeting cards as well as boxed sets and a selection of journals.  There is an incredibly strong local customer base and also some tourist traffic, thanks to the historical attractions.  Sharon, the owner, has to be selective with her inventory due to the small size.  What does this mean?  It means any book you pick out here will be a winner.  She has all the recent releases and best sellers as well as an extensive offering of books by the many local authors.  If she doesn't have it she can easily order it for you.  Also, if you're in a book club you can get that book for 15% off, just let her know it's for a book club.

I had a wonderful time talking to Sharon and she was very generous with her time to visit with me.  Her journey to the present has been a lesson in perseverance.  Purple Crow bloomed from the tragedy of losing her husband.  She made the decision to start this business despite no business background, everyone advising her to the contrary and telling her it would fail.  Thanks for ignoring that advice, Sharon!

So let me tell you how you'll do this.  Take your history buff spouse or children on a wonderful, educational field trip to Hillsborough, NC.  Enjoy all it has to offer.  Then carve out some time to visit a quaint, charming bookstore in the historic district.  You'll enjoy a great indie and the fine owner you'll meet there.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Shadow Of The Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Guests On Earth, Lee Smith.  27 Views Of Hillsborough, Intro by Michael Malone (not purchased, gifted from Sharon.  Thanks Sharon!)

Ignore my reflection to see the great window display.  

View to the left from the front door.  The doorway in the rear leads into the children's section and a small room of sidelines.  

View to the right from the front door.  

Looking through the store from the front door.  That's the owner, Sharon W.  

Some timely ideas for Mother's Day.  

A portion of the children's room.  

What kid couldn't get comfy in this bathtub in the children's room?!

This smaller room offers sidelines including greeting cards. 

Another view of the sidelines room.  

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

You'll find bestsellers here.  

With Sharon, the fine owner at Purple Crow.  Thanks for a great visit.