Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book Barn - Niantic, CT

Book Barn - Niantic, CT

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This place isn't a bookstore, it's an experience.  It is a book theme park.  It is a book campus.  The place was so busy on the day of my visit the booksellers also doubled as parking lot attendants.  This place is a destination for school field trips and Randi W., the owner, told me his favorite one of these trips was when his then 8th grade daughter took a field trip to her home (Randi and his family live right by the barn).  You can come here and pet goats.  Bring a lunch and have a picnic.  Shoot some hoops.  Play chess or checkers.  Heck, you can even play Pokemon Go here!  I like Randi's philosophy here.  He wants kids to have a good experience whether they buy a book or not.  In the end, they'll remember visiting a "bookstore" as a fun thing to do.

Randi started this place back in 1988 in the basement with 3 bookshelves and a couch.  It has now expanded to this main Book Barn location and 3 additional locations, all in Niantic.  The business is all used books and they take in an astronomical 10,000 - 12,000/week.  Randi gave me a great quote about the work here and how busy some days are when he said, "some days the tide comes in and all we can do is eat seaweed!"  I don't think I can even fathom the volume of business here.

Many of the books are displayed outside on bookshelves and/or small rooms.  The bookshelves close very neatly with sliding panels in the event of rain.  Inside the Book Barn you'll find three levels; basement, main, and upper.  Lots of nooks and crannies everywhere and the basement is literally like a maze and I took several wrong turns.  The business is dependent on visitors and the majority of the customers come from 50+ miles away.  You'll find bargains everywhere with lots of one dollar books but the store ("store" is not the right word for this place!) makes its money on $5 dollar books.  They also have a few vintage and collectable books but they are a very small part of the picture.   And you can visit virtually whenever you want since they're open 9-9, 7 days a week, 363 days a year.  Quite impressive!

Randy, Glenn, and the others I visited with were terrific.  I could've spent hours at this book bonanza and talking to everyone.  They also told me that the store made a top ten list of coolest bookstores (no surprise) in the world in a Mental Floss article.  That gets no argument from me.  This store rates high on the "cool" scale, high on the book scale, high on the experience scale, and through the roof on the people scale.  They're the best.  Check this place out, you'll have a ball.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Underground In Berlin, Marie Jalowicz Simon.

View looking into the "store" from the parking lot.  This is the outside portion of the store and up ahead in this picture you have a long walk through MANY large book displays.  

Have you ever been to a bookstore that has a visitor info center?  You would be wise to stop here for a brief orientation of the grounds and the barn.  

Bringing books in?  According to this, a butt load is actually more than a ton!

Why is this area called Ellis Island?  New arrivals.  Books, that is.  

Bring your used books in any day.  

These wagons can help with your used book returns.  You can also probably use them for all the books you'll want to buy.  

This is one of the many outdoor book displays.  In case of rain, the green paneling slides up to cover the book shelves.  

There are bargains everywhere.  

This is The Underworld, Hades.  This is one of the areas where you'll find mysteries, among other things.  

More bargains on a great display.  

Take a break from book browsing and play some chess.  

If you're a book lover, it will take you hours to see everything here.  

A great price sign for paperbacks.  

You will see things at this book "store" that you haven't seen at any other bookstore.  Guaranteed.  

An old outhouse is now the rednek reedin room.  

Two of the bookstore goats.  In the background you see book displays.  

Huge shade tree with comfortable seats to try out a book.  

Another exterior view.  

I think the landscaping and gardens around the property (park? campus?) are outstanding.  

View inside the main level entrance.  It's impossible to view the totality of this enterprise.  

Collectors should check in here regularly.  

A very limited glimpse on the upper level.  

View outside the entrance to the basement level.  

Looking into the basement level.  This level is a maze of books and shelves.  

One of the nooks on the basement level.  

An award-winning store.  

A great place to sit and try out a book.  

A nice view of a small portion of the upper level.  

Because you're going to spend a LOT of time here, bring a picnic lunch.  

In case you can't find what you're looking for at the main Book Barn, there are multiple locations nearby.  This one is just up the road. 

With Randi on the left, the fine owner of the Book Barn.  Thanks for a great visit.  

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