Friday, December 15, 2017

Paperbacks & Pieces - Winona, MN

Paperbacks & Pieces, Winona, MN
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

This is one of those bookstores that I've known about for awhile and just hadn't visited until now.  From the outside, this bookstore has a very unassuming and simple appearance.  From the outside, you wouldn't know that this is a successful, 40-year business that has deep roots in the community and continues to show positive results.  From the outside, you wouldn't know that inside are two of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet and who are able to give you lots of recommendations for your next book.  Readers, this is the classic, "don't judge a book by its cover," bookstore.

Paperbacks And Pieces is located on one of the busiest streets through Winona making it a very visible location.  Of its 40 years in business, its been in this location for the last 13.  It's also a great location because the owner, Shelley O., owns the building and the upstairs apartment, a great benefit for any indie owner.  The very spacious one-level store offers a variety of new and used books with most of the new ones located near the front of the store.  They offer store credit or cash for the books that customers bring in for trade.  There are a few sidelines available including greeting cards, candles, and journals to name a few.  The greeting cards sell especially well.  I really like the events space they have in the back of the store.  Lots of space for book clubs and the monthly Art Of Words, an event that has a variety of speakers.  Shelley is hoping to increase the events schedule and I always think this is good if bookstores can do it.  Lastly, I thought the children's section was decorated and presented in an attractive manner.

Sadly, I must share that Shelley is actively looking for a buyer for the bookstore (ok, not sadly for Shelley but sad for those of us who've met her and enjoy her presence in the store).  It's certainly not due to poor business because things are going very well here.  But, after 20 years owning the business she's decided its time for a new chapter in her life.  Congratulations Shelley!  Opportunity is knocking readers, answer the call.

Shelley and Crystal are super people to project that independent bookstore spirit.  Pay them a visit and enjoy the same wonderful experience I did.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Going Into Town, Roz Chast.  This author is a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine and I absolutely love everything she does.  This book is a graphic novel about NYC, and in addition to being hilarious and featuring Chast's quirky sketches, it actually has some good advice for people visiting The Big Apple.  Even if you don't read graphic novels, I recommend every single one of this author's work.  And it is a very quick read.  Highly recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Brave Deeds, David Abrams.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Not purchased, but gifted.  Slider, Pete Hautman.  Thanks Shelley.

This building has only been three businesses during the course of its life.  As you look at this storefront, you might be able to envision that it once was a small grocery store.  

Interested parties should contact the store and owner ASAP.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Some great deals on Christmas books located in this bin near the front entrance.  

Find this display for more great deals.  

Kids will like this display, also located near the front of the store.  


A long aisle of spinners.  

Praire Lights customers in Iowa City will be very familiar with this author.  

A great place to sit in the front of the store for browsing books or watching traffic.  

Nice display of popular books.  

Just like this great bookstore!

A variety of sidelines.  These can be found throughout the store.  

Tired of waiting for a book on hold at the library?  Consider a rental.  Great titles available.  

These are the terms, very reasonable.  

If you know any Star Trek fans, send them to this store.  

Another great place to stretch out with a book.  Please, at least pretend to be reading.  

I love this events space located in the back of the store.  If you have a book club, you should consider meeting here.  

Looking into the children's section.  I love the long, slinky weiner dog hanging from the ceiling.   


Another view into the children's section.  

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

These are still a thing.  

This is what the bookstore looked like before it was a bookstore.  

Every.  Single.  Bookstore.  

Only in an independent bookstore.  I believe that the pictured book is the first of a multi-set volume.  

Every year the store does some kind of book tree in the front window.  

With Crystal on the left and Shelley on the right, holding part time Indie Bob Spot staffer Gettysburg T.  Thanks for a great visit.    

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pearl Street Books - LaCrosse, WI

Pearl Street Books, LaCrosse, WI
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

I'm a little concerned that I have now visited so many bookstores (290+) that I may visit one that I'll become apathetic about or develop a "ho-hum" attitude.  Yet thankfully, time after time, it doesn't happen.  Once again, I've visited a wonderful bookstore with a great space, an established history, an engaging bookseller, and is relavitlely close to where I live.  The independent bookstore gods continue to smile down upon me and I return the smile.  There was nothing "blah" about my visit to this terrific indie in LaCrosse.

Pearl Street Books is located in a building constructed in the 1880s.  It's in a space that was formerly a shoe store and the most striking thing to me when I entered was the floor to ceiling shelving on both walls.  The ceiling was so high that the shelves had moveable ladders on rails along both walls.  In other words, a book lover's dream.  The store is in the heart of downtown, an excellent location that offers great foot traffic.  They've been in this location for 17 years of the last 20+ years they've been in business.  There is a solid core of regular customers and lots of tourists, especially during the summer months and especially those who visit here on Mississippi River cruises.

Pearl Street offers new and used books with the new ones featured near the front of the store.  Customers are able to receive store credit or cash for the books they bring in.  They also acquire books via book sales throughout the area.  The store has recently established a presence on social media and also offer book sales online, both things that I think are good moves if a bookstore is able to do it.  They offer greeting cards that sell well but other than that, there are few sidelines.  You can also enjoy visiting the store for occasional author events, something that can always attract more customers.  And if you need a coffee, there is an indoor cut-though to the next door coffee shop, a win-win for both businesses.

I didn't get to meet the owner Jim A. on this visit but the store was in great hands with Allison, one of the booksellers.  She was the perfect bookseller; knowledgeable, conversant, and friendly.  Exactly the kind of person you usually meet working in bookstores.

Even though this store has been around for awhile, there are some folks in the LaCrosse area who haven't discovered it yet.  Now is the time.  Wisconsin winters can be brutal and man cannot live on cheese alone.  Visit Pearl Street Books and pick up a few books to get you through the winter.  Once you see this place, you'll be back for more.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Lion, Saroo Brierley.  Previously published as, A Long Way Home: A Memoir.  Author's account of growing up in India and at the age of 5 becomes lost from his family.  The result is an incredible story that takes him across the country of India and then halfway around the world to Australia.  All the time he's wondering if he can ever find his birth family.  Unbelievable story that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Going Into Town, Roz Chast. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:   Freddy And The Ignormus, Walter Brooks.  Freddy The Pilot, Walter Brooks.  Freddy The Detective, Walter Brooks.  Give A Boy A Gun, Todd Strasser.   



Ample window display space.  Notice the sign below the window of the previous business.  Years ago, this window would've been filled with shoes.    

Another one of the store's window displays.  
Walking into the store you'll see evidence of the store's history under your feet.  


There are two front door entrances and this is the view looking into the store from the right front door.  Halfway back on the right is the doorway cut-through that will take you into the coffeeshop.  

View looking to the left of the front entrance.  Notice that the books are literally shelved floor to ceiling.  This is true of both sides of the store.  

You'll find a bargain in this basket.  


Just a few of the greeting cards available.  

Displays of new books will be found near the front of the store.  

Floor to ceiling, nothing but books for as far as the eye can see.  

Shopping tip.

A few of the sidelines available.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

Another view of the children's section.  


Looking across the back wall of the store.  Apologies for the blur.  

This beautiful staircase will lead upstairs to a balcony area located in the back of the store.  

The balcony area is a perfect space to relax and sample a few books.  I love this area of the store.  

How could anybody not like this view?  Great shot from the balcony looking toward the front of the store.  

Something for your German speaking friends.  

A great selection of new children's books.  

With Allison on the right, one of the fine booksellers at Pearl Street Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Bookman - Grand Haven, MI


The Bookman, Grand Haven, MI
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

As I travel the country I hear an optimistic, common theme from most independent bookstores.  They're back, they're returning.  But, here in Grand Haven...  The store was purchased by a group of 4, three years ago.  It was either that or see Grand Haven lose their bookstore.  Thank goodness Dick and his wife Sharon, Alexa, and Diane did their civic duty to preserve and continue this bookstore.  Unfortunately, there are still people in this tri-city area of Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg, who haven't been here yet or even heard of The Bookman.  Time for these citizens to do THEIR civic duty and you don't even have to buy a bookstore.  Go to The Bookman and buy a card, a gift, or even a book.  Or heck, call the store and order a book and have Dick deliver it for free (now that's what I call customer service!).  Or go to the website and order a book online  See?  You have lots of options.  Whatever you do, don't let this GEM slip away.

When the Group of Four bought this business the transformation began.  Window displays, sidelines, online orders, social media presence, and more.  Business started out quite good but has since moderated and the ownership continues to look for ways to sustain.  If you have't been here yet, let me tell you what you'll find.  A spacious one-level store in a 100+ year old building that used to be a grain store.  There are books for any budget, new and used.  The used books offered are all mass-market or trade paperbacks just inside the front door and to the left in a room of their own.  If you bring in books for trade you'll receive store credit.  There are a variety of sidelines including a wall of magazines, greeting cards, reading glasses, and numerous items for kids.  Since this business has been here for 43 years, there is a built-in base of regulars and there is a big boost from tourists in the summers.   The store does frequent events both on and off site.  On the weekday morning of my visit, Diane and Shannon were offering books for an event at the local community center.  They also have a great partnership with some of the local schools, bringing kids and parents into the store for various events.

So I can check all the boxes for this fine indie, including an uber friendly group of owners and staffers, except one.  Grand Haven, wake-up and smell the coffee!  After 43 years, it's time to visit this fantastic bookstore and the wonderful people you'll meet here.  Bring a friend, tell a friend, get a gift for a friend.  But don't miss out on this important part of your "shop local, buy local" culture.  Save a bookstore and you help save a community.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs.  This book gets some good reviews but not from me.  Meh.  Didn't grab me at all.  Story of a kid who wants to find where his grandfather spent his childhood, after escaping Europe in WWII.  Includes black and white photos of human oddities.  Blah.  Lots of people like this but it didn't work for me.   

CURRENTLY READING:  Lion, Saroo Brierley.  Previously published as A Long Way Home: A Memoir.    


The store has two entrances, the front entrance from the street and this side entrance from a large parking lot on the side of the building.  


Always check out the calendar of events, this one located near the front entrance.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Find this book cart for some great bargains.  

Directly to the left of the front entrance is a room that offers all of the store's used books.  This is the view looking into that room.  

Take a moment in the used book room to add a piece to the puzzle.  

Or enjoy a comfortable seat while you sample a book.  

One of my favorite things in the used book room and in the store is the hanging book ceiling.  I see creativity like this in every indie I visit.  

Lots of magazines to choose from.  

A few of the books of local and regional interest.  

A portion of the general fiction books offered, on these shelves many of the covers are displayed outward.  

Fishing and outdoors items sell well here, as demonstrated by this display.  

A nice display of some of the books by local authors.  

Any bookstore that displays artwork by kids will probably get the kids and their parents in the bookstore.  A good idea for all indies if they can do it.  

I see some great Christmas gifts for shoppers at this display.  If you have grandchildren, find these!


I love seeing and hearing about the history of bookstore buildings.  The Bookman is in this building, a former grain store.  This is now the storefront.  

A variety of newspapers offered at the checkout counter.  

A portion of the children's section.  

A neatly arranged display of paperback bestsellers.  

Display offering a variety of sidelines.  

Some more great gift ideas for your holiday shopping.  

An overview of the store looking from the rear toward the front entrance.  The side entrance to the store is on the left, just out of the picture.  

The cast of Bookman rockstars and one imposter.  Thanks for a great visit.