Sunday, July 31, 2016

Prospero's Books - Kansas City, MO

Prosperous Books - Kansas City, MO
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Location, location, location.  I hear this from many successful bookstore owners and that's certainly one of the components for success here at Prospero's Books.  This place has been around for 19 years and before opening, Will L., one of the co-owners, spent time here just tracking the traffic to determine if the location would work.  It proved to be a great decision and now the store is entrenched in the community with deep roots.  After visiting this bookstore, I can't imagine it not being here.

So how good is this location?  It's situated on the corner of a very busy W. 39th St. stretch in Volker Neighborhood.  The area is thick with lots of unique businesses and shops.  Off of this busy street you'll find lots of old, large, and uniquely architectured houses.  An ideal combination of residential and businesses.  Just down the street is the large KU Medical Center which attracts families from all over the country and in turn brings them to the bookstore.  The cherry on top of this location?  Tom, one of the co-owners, is the landlord for the building, a really great benefit for any indie owner.

And what will you find in this great location?  Three spacious floors of books, CDs, vinyl, and a few greeting cards thrown in for good measure.  Except for a few new publications by local authors, all of the books are used.  Customers who bring books in can receive store credit or cash.  There's no shortage of books here with over 75 categories to browse.  This makes it impractical to maintain a data base but like all good used book store people, Will has a good handle on what's in the store.  They also have books available on the outside sidewalk after hours which is great for late night hospital visitors walking through the neighborhood as well as some of the indigent population in the area.  If a customer decides to get a book after hours all they do is slide the money under the front entrance door.  I think this is a great idea and Will told me that it works well.

One of the best things for Prospero's are its frequent events.  Will told me that this is huge for them here and is a critical part of their business.  They have a great events space on the 2nd floor and 2/3s of these events are music.  They're able to charge a cover for the musicians and offer assorted beverages to enhance the atmosphere.  They also publish and host many local authors and have done very well helping these authors and aspiring musicians.

You're going to have a great time visiting this store and meeting Will.  He's been involved with political campaigns so talking with him about politics, books, and music made it a great visit for me. I didn't get to meet Tom, but what a great conversation I had with him by phone.  If you want to know about the store's history, make sure you visit with him.  Like many other indies I've visited, this one is showing good business growth over the last few years. My advice to you?  You need to visit here and see for yourself why everything's up to date in Kansas City!  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Songs Of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford.  Depression-era in Seattle's Chinatown and a single mother reluctantly abandons her 7 year old son to an orphanage.  Read this great book to find out why.  If you enjoyed, Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter and Sweet, you'll like this one by the same author.  I thoroughly enjoyed this one.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Trombone Answers, James M. Donovan.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Rockabilly Guitar Play Along, Hal Leonard.  The Sexy Vegan Kitchen, Aimee Christine Hughes.  Not purchased but gifted, my very own Prospero's t-shirt!  Thanks Will!

You can find a nice assortment of books before you even go inside.  

If you find a book outside that you like, follow these directions.  

You can even sit down in a great chair outside to sample a book.  

Looking into the bookstore from the front entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  There's a stairway here that will take you downstairs to more books.  Notice the pool balls on the posts.  Very nice.  

This is one of those bookstores where you would probably see something different every time you visited, just like a museum!

When you get tired of sitting outside come inside and find this chair.  

A really cool pile of books.  Reminds me of my unread pile.  

One of the many long book aisles here.  

A portion of the kids' area.  

A view looking across the 2nd floor.  This is a great events space, host to lots of music.  Tom put in marathon hours in this upstairs space remodeling it into its current state.  

You'll find lots of vinyl on the 2nd floor.  

CDs as well.  

This looks like a therapy couch.  "Yes, doctor,  I have a compulsive problem visiting bookstores."  

Another view looking back across the 2nd floor.  

View looking into the lower level of books from the stairway.  This level has some nooks and crannies to explore.  

If you want to sit in the most unique chair in the store, find this one downstairs.  

A great place on the lower level to talk about a few books.  

One of the nooks on the lower level.  

Another view of the lower level.  

Need a bargain?  Here you go!

With Will on the left, one of the fine co-owners at Prospero's.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Raven Book Store - Lawrence, KS

The Raven Book Store - Lawrence, KS
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Readers, whenever you visit a college or university town, I strongly encourage you to check out the independent bookstore scene.  Regular readers of The Indie Bob Spot know how much I enjoy these towns and their bookstores.  Lawrence, KS is like many of those towns I've visited.  Home to a major university and home to a wonderful, long-running and established independent bookstore.

The Raven has been around for 29 years and originally began as a bookstore specializing in mysteries.  Like all indies, it has evolved over time and now has a good variety of books in almost every genre.  The store offers all new books except for a very small section of used paperback mysteries, a nod to its original roots.  It has a good location in downtown Lawrence, just off the main street.  I was easily able to find close parking right on the street at one of the meters.  The store has two medium-sized rooms with a very open feeling all on one level, making browsing a cinch.  In addition to books, there are a good variety of greeting cards, journals and calendars, and some sidelines the kids will enjoy.  The only thing not for sale here?  The two independent bookstore cats, of course!

I had a great time talking to Heidi R., the owner here for 9 years now.  Like all indie owners, the business has had challenges but it is continuing to endure and is well-supported by the community.  Being located in a college town is a definite plus since many events at Kansas University bring people into town and then to the bookstore.  The Raven is very active with author events which can accommodate up to 50 people in the store.  For larger events, they have options off-site that are available.  The store is also involved with a few of its own book clubs as well as community book clubs, all great ways to bring customers into the store.  But best of all, like almost all my bookstore visits, people like Heidi and Chris who I met here couldn't have been nicer.

So what's the bottom line at The Raven?  You're going to find a warm, comfortable, and solid independent bookstore.  You'll have a wonderful time browsing AND buying your next book.  Don't miss this one.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Songs Of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Language Of The Dead, Stephen Kelly.    

Another exterior view.  
View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Just inside the entrance you'll find a nice assortment of magazines.  

Just to the left of the entrance are a nice variety of unique postcards.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

This is the room to the right after entering the front entrance.  

Some great sidelines for kids.  

A portion of the children's section with a great chair to sample a book.  

A nice display of new non-fiction.  

Shelf-talker recommendations can be found throughout the store.  I always love seeing these.  

Some of the books of local and regional interest.  

When you visit here check out this quilt mounted on the wall.  It's decorated with "patches" noting the many author visits.  You'll have to visit because it looks much better in person.  

Ask about the used mystery paperbacks.  They have some great deals in this section.  

There are two cats here but I was only able to provide photographic evidence of one!   

Start a series.  

From the back of the store looking toward the front entrance.  

This is an important and relevant display for our country's conversation.  I've read a few of these and they are great.  Educate.  

A nice assortment of journals and planners.  

With Heidi, the fine owner at The Raven.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Plot Twist Bookstore - Ankeny, IA

Plot Twist Bookstore - Ankeny, IA
 (Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

I've often felt that central Iowa, the most populated part of the state, has been void of independent bookstores.  Ankeny is just north of Des Moines, the state capital, which is the largest city in Iowa.  Des Moines and the surrounding area are growing rapidly and Ankeny is the 3rd fastest growing community in the country.  But where are the independent bookstores to serve this population?  Central Iowa and Ankeny need an indie for this vibrant part of the state.  Problem solved!

To the best of my knowledge, Plot Twist Books is the newest bookstore in Iowa.  It celebrated with its grand opening on April 30, 2016, making it about three months old.  Its opening is part of a national trend of more bookstores opening instead of closing, a great sign, especially in central Iowa. The store is located in Kimberly Plaza with several other businesses.  The area is highly visible on a main road and the plaza area has lots of free parking.  The one-level store offers all new books and a variety of sidelines.  Chocolate covered potato chips?  Yes please!  You'll also find an assortment of greeting cards.  These, along with puzzles and games, have been selling well in the opening months.  The children's section is particularly good and Plot Twist is already offering a story time for young children.  The store is also involved with offering author events and signings.  Mary, the owner, has done a great job out of the gate by doing all the things that successful indies do.  In short, this place is poised for a long, successful run and in this location and this community, things are only going to get better.

The bad news on my visit is that I didn't get to meet Mary.  The good news is that I met two of her fine booksellers, Jill and Cary, and had a great time talking to both of them.  As with all new indies, Mary and her staff are still figuring out how best to stock the store.  What books to offer, who their customers are and what do they like, and what sidelines to stock.  At this time, the business is doing quite well and the books are the thing.  But here's what I know about Mary without even meeting her.  She's smart, her eyes are open, and she's on top of it.  The perfect bookstore owner.

Since this is just a baby bookstore, I know there are many in central Iowa and Ankeny who haven't been here yet.  Don't delay.  This place has a great future and you want to see it now so you can be a part of a great beginning.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Underground Girls Of Kabul, Jenny Nordberg.  A very well-researched account of the unbelievable challenges facing women in Afghanistan.  In this country, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the birth of a daughter is a cause for mourning.  This is an eye-opener.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Songs Of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Trombone Answers, John M. Donovan.

View looking through the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the right of the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance you're going to find a great place to sit and try a book.  

Even though this bookstore is newly opened, they're already scheduling author events.  

Display of Indie Bound recommendations.  

Display of what the local AP English class students will need to get, a great way to form ties to the community.  

If chocolate covered potato chips aren't your thing, you can grab some Chicago style popcorn.  Or go ahead and get both!  

A few of the sidelines available.  

A nice display of staff recommendations.  

Just a few of the greeting cards available.  

A sentiment that I feel in every bookstore I visit.  

A portion of the children's section.  

This is exactly my challenge with every bookstore I visit and document.  

View from the back of the bookstore looking toward the front entrance.  Astute readers my recognize the reclusive celebrity spotted browsing.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Only at an independent bookstore.  

Timely display for the upcoming Harry Potter release. 

With Jill on the left and Cary on the right, two of fine folks you'll meet at Plot Twist.  Thanks for a great visit.