Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Old Firehouse Books - Ft. Collins, CO

Old Firehouse Books - Ft. Collins, CO
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Regular readers know that my goal is to visit all the bookstores featured in My Bookstore, by Ron Rice.  Regular readers also know that I'm visiting MANY more than just the 81 indies represented in that book.  I repeatedly and frequently visit bookstores that are certainly as worthy as those featured in My Bookstore.  Old Firehouse Books is definitely one of the worthy!  Located in the old town section of Ft. Collins, this one-level indie has everything you want in your local independent bookstore.  An extensive inventory of new and used books all attractively displayed, a good variety of sidelines (including socks and t-shirts which are two of the best-sellers), author events, free parking, and a wonderful location in an old historic firehouse.  Everything adds up to a successful, long-running independent bookstore.

This store has been in business since 1980 but in this location now for 7 years.  I had a great talk with Matt G., the floor manager, who told me business is going very well here as it is in Ft. Collins in general.  There is a great core of local customers and the store is seeing continued growth in tourists.  One of the draws to Ft. Collins is bicycling and micro-breweries, something that helps bring customers to Old Firehouse.  The store also brings customers in thanks to frequent author events (held in the store or off-site depending on the anticipated crowd), several bookclubs, a children's story time, and people who wander in from Happy Lucky's Teahouse, attached to Old Firehouse on the inside.  Happy Lucky Teahouse is a great partnership for the bookstore and both businesses benefit.  You can also visit the store with your good used books and trade them for store credit.

Dick and Susie have owned Old Firehouse Books since 2000 and even though I didn't get to meet them, they clearly have done a terrific job here.  I did get to meet Matt and Kelsey M., the events coordinator, and had a great time talking to them and other staffers.  I keep thinking that sooner or later on these visits I'm going to meet a grumpmuffin but it just doesn't happen.  These two couldn't have been nicer while I was here.  And if you're a sci-fi fan, this store is well-stocked and Kelsey is the one who will help you pick out a good one.

I'm not sure why anyone wouldn't enjoy a visit to Ft. Collins.  Beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, lots of unique shops, bicycling and micro-breweries, AND a fabulous independent bookstore.  For crying out loud people, what more do you want?!  Enjoy a great visit to one of our country's long-standing bookstores.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Orenda, Joseph Boyden.

Front window display.  Apologies for the blur.  I was too anxious to get in the store!

View looking straight through the store from the front entrance.  To the right of the greeting cards is Happy Lucky's Teahouse.  To the left is more bookstore.  

Looking through the main portion of the bookstore.  Meticulous readers may recognize the celebrity browsing while I was there.  Yes, that's my mom.  

See what the bookclubs are reading.  

Old Firehouse has an active events schedule.  

An attractive display of used books.  You can find used books throughout the store shelved alongside new ones.  

A nice display of staff picks.  Apologies again for the blur. 

Poster sized book covers for sale.  I love these.  

The Great Wall Of Socks!  One of the best-selling sidelines at Old Firehouse Books.  If you see a pair you like, get them.  Only found at independent bookstores!

These t-shirts are also selling well.  

I think you'll need some chocolate to go along with that book you bought.  Available at the check-out counter.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

You saw The Great Wall Of Socks?  I call this the great bookshelves of books!  

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

A portion of the children's section.  

Bring in your good used books.  

This poster should be displayed in every independent bookstore.  If you have friends who do this, educate them!  

Some of the bookstores I've visited feature some great art sculpted out of books.  

With Matt on the left and Kelsey in the middle.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Town House Books & Cafe - St. Charles, IL

Town House Books & Cafe - St. Charles, IL
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As I visit bookstores across the country, some are housed in newly built spaces and others occupy buildings rich in history.  Town House Books & Cafe is in what appears to be a very old, large house. This structure was built in 1853, one of the first in St. Charels.  It has the feel like a neighborhood bookstore, surrounded by residential and small businesses.  It was built as the town house for the 2nd mayor of St. Charles.  Over 100 years later in 1974, this building fulfilled its destiny by reincarnating itself into an independent bookstore.  Two decades later it took things one step further by adding a cafe that features outstanding lunches.  Thank goodness this beautiful structure finally found its true calling.  My only question is what took it so long?!

Not only will you enjoy browsing books here, you'll simply enjoy exploring and wandering.  The store has multiple rooms that you can lose yourself in as you walk through the store.  All the rooms are packed with new books and I thought the inventory offered was extensive.  There are a small number of used books available at bargain prices but this is not a part of the business that they actively pursue here.  The sidelines are minimal but it is a nice boost to the business.  The books are definitely the thing here but the other huge asset is the cafe attached right to the bookstore.  Beautiful dining areas available inside and out (weather permitting).  This cafe is renowned in the area and frequently has lines waiting to get in over the noon hour.,  What do these crowds do before and after lunch?  Browse the bookstore, of course!  I have no back ground in business but that seems like the perfect plan to me.

I had a great time meeting and talking to the owner, David H., and Heidi, one of the booksellers.  David is the 2nd ownership of Town House Books and I especially like that they have occasional author events that include dining in the cafe.  What a great idea!  If you're in the St. Charles area and haven't attended one of these events, I strongly encourage you to do so.

This bookstore is beautiful, charming, historical, and very accessible with free parking .  You need to find out what all the regular customers already know.  Town House Books & Cafe is an absolute gem that you will want to return to often.  Enjoy the fine people you meet here and a great bookstore experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson.  Story that takes place in the English countryside and a small village.  Major Pettigrew is a recent widower and this experience along with many others along the way are very entertaining.  The Major is a wonderful character, exhibiting all things British like decorum, manners, good breeding, and daily tea.  He only wishes everyone else were the same.  A great read.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Orenda, Joseph Boyden.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Léon & Louise, Alex Capus.

A great view from the parking lot across the street where you can park for free.  

The exterior of the cafe.  

You can park for free on the street or look for these signs in the free parking lot right across the street.  

Beautiful outdoor seating area.  

This bookstore has so much window display area that I can't even get it all in the picture.  

One of the display windows where many alert readers may notice a celebrity already browsing books.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View just inside the front entrance where you'll see the check-out counter.  The counter looks like one you'd see in an old-time general store but instead of candy bars on those front shelves you'll see paperback books.  

This display of books is on that check-out counter.  Why did I take this picture?  Look carefully readers.  Do you see the book available here that was the inspiration for my journey?

Looking left from the front entrance and a long inside front porch area.  

Staff recommendations can be found throughout the store.  

Looking to the right from the front check-out counter.  This room features some of the sidelines available including these greeting cards.  Beyond this room you walk into the cafe.  

A portion of the beautiful dining area of the cafe.  

A portion of the menu on the day of my visit.  I can see why they have lines to eat here.  

A portion of the children's department.  

Teachers should be flooding this store.  

View of one of the several rooms.  

Outdoor patio dining area.  This picture doesn't do it justice without all the tables and decorations.  

How many bookstore doors look this cool?!!

Sit here and read or stand and admire.  

With Heidi in the center and David on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Read Between The Lynes - Woodstock, IL

Read Between The Lynes - Woodstock, IL

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I continue to hear good things in the world of independent bookstores.  The majority of owners and stores I visit tell me that things are trending well for the indie movement.  If you need an example look no further than Read Between The Lynes in Woodstock.  Arlene L., the owner, who had no experience in retail, opened a bookstore on the historic downtown square.  So what, right?  Well, she and her staff must be doing something right (or should I say, "write?") Because she was able to change locations six months ago, stay in a great location on the square, and drastically expand her space and business.  The results?  Business is going great and the owner has the beaming smile of success.

Read Between The Lynes is a spacious, one-level, neatly decorated bookstore.  Arlene and her staff put a lot of work in here to get it ready and it shows.  The big difference for this store in its new building is its additional space and the extensive sidelines they were able to add.  Now you can visit and enjoy a coffee or latte while browsing.  If coffee isn't your thing you can have some ice cream or pick out some candy from an incredible variety they have to offer.  You can also browse and shop a selection of gourmet foods.  There are also all the other unique sidelines found in independent bookstores including greeting cards, journals, games, puzzles, and MUCH more.  All of these items now available here in the new location have made a huge difference in the store's growth and success.  And oh yeah, lots of great books and book displays.

The store has been around for 11 years so its established with a good nucleus of local customers.  I met and talked to two of them while there and they volunteered to me (without coercion) that they absolutely love this new location.  Book and author events are frequent in the store and for large events they're able to use the historic opera house right up the street.

You know things are going well when you can increase your staff to 14 people.  It was my good fortune to not only meet Arlene, but three of her staff.  Rachel, Shawn, Dawn, and Arlene were, well, awesome.  These people are one of the BIG reasons I enjoy visiting independent bookstores.  Arlene caught me the minute I walked in and it was like we were long lost friends.  She told me so much about the store and I'm especially appreciative that she got an idea for her store from one of my previous entries about another indie.

Arlene's last name begins with the letter, "L."  I LOVE the clever name of this store, Read Between The Lynes.  No, that isn't a typo.  Figure it out.  This is the type of creativity you find in independent bookstore owners.  Arlene has it all at this indie and if you haven't been here yet, check it out.  You'll have a great bookstore experience and will enjoy the wonderful people who work here.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Redbreast, Jo Nesbø.  I've never read anything by this author and decided I should since he has so many things out there.  He writes mystery/thriller fiction and this one featured one of his recurring characters, Harry Hole.  Meh.  Didn't hold my interest and truthfully, I've already forgotten it.  He probably has other novels I would enjoy.

CURRENTLY READING:  Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend, Matthew Dicks.  The Dophin, Craig Bennett Hallenstein.

Another exterior view.  Astute readers may recognize the celebrity rushing into the store.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Front window display featuring art work of local pre-schoolers.  All indies should invest in positive community ties like this.  

View looking through the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  Grab your coffee here before you browse the store.  

Seasonal front table display.  Cubs fans will like this one!

This area might slow you down before you get to the books.  

Some of the variety of gourmet foods available.  

Arlene told me that she saw this display in a picture from another bookstore featured on The Indie Bob Spot.  She called the bookstore and voilá, it works great in her store too!

Jaci's Cookies is another locally owned business in Woodstock.  Get her cookies at the bookstore or her store.

Are you kidding me?  I just had the ice cream and now I have to have candy??!  And books?!!!  Maybe this store should be renamed Xanadu!  

Didn't see any candy you liked in the above picture?  Well, here's the chocolate display case.  

Parents and grandparents can find great stuff for children in this section.  

Find this tree for the children's section and come here for a story time.  Or go get some candy.  

A great place to try out a book and enjoy some candy.  

Check out some of these games and puzzles toward the back of the store.  

View from the back of the store looking toward the front entrance.  There is a nice space behind me for book club gatherings.  

These people are some of the rock stars you'll meet at Read Between The Lynes.  From L-R, Arlene, Shawn, Dawn, and Rachel.  And a shout out to Leslie who is a huge part of the operation here and would've been in the picture if not for a family emergency.  Thanks for a great visit.  

With Arlene, the fine owner at Read Between The Lynes.  Thanks for a great visit.