Sunday, April 23, 2017

Main Street Books - Norfolk, NE

Main Street Books, Norfolk, NE
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Main Street Books is the perfect example of what I'm witnessing as I travel across the country, a renaissance for independent bookstores.  My visit here coincided with the one-year anniversary of its opening.  As Chad J., the owner, told me, they wanted to open this bookstore quickly (before anyone else got the idea) to fill a void left by the recent closing of a music and book store.  From my observations, it appears to be a perfect fit for this community in just about every way.  Location, accessibility, inventory, and customer relations and service all add up to provide a wonderful bookstore and experience.  

Main Street Books has a great location right on the main street (of course!) through town.  The nice thing about this location besides high visibility is a reasonable lease and no other bookstore within two hours.  The long, narrow, one-level space offers new and used books as well as a small number of sidelines.  They've recently added a line of items by Melissa and Doug, very popular with children and something I've seen available in other indies.  Additionally, they offer some great works of art by several different local artists, a great way to bring more people to the store.  As for books, the store has about a 50/50 split with new and used books.  They offer store credit to customers in exchange for their used books that are in good condition.  Since this store is so new, they're still learning how to engage events and book signings.  An upcoming event is a wine-tasting event that will be held in the store in cooperation with another business.  I think wine and books is a win-win for everyone!

This store is the true definition of a family business.  In addition to Chad, I met his wife, Bonnell, his son Calvin, and his mother Barb.  Heck, I practically felt like the long lost cousin joyfully welcomed back to a family reunion!  But as regular readers know, this is the norm when you visit the terrific people who work at independent bookstores.

Being open for just a year, things are going reasonably well but they can always be better.  Believe it or not, there are some people in the Norfolk area who don't know about this store yet.  To you people, I politely say, WAKE UP!  It's time to support and patronize a business that many other communities aren't as fortunate to have.  This is a hidden gem in your midst.  I can say with confidence that you will find a book here that will suit your interests or one you can get as a gift for a friend.  Lots of great books cared for by some of the nicest people to tell you about them.  Enjoy a visit to a bookstore that is an emerging star in northeast Nebraska.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  A Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable.  Fiction based on the true story of an apartment that was sealed since WWII and the priceless artifacts found within as well as journals kept by the original occupant.  The story goes back and forth between 1900 Paris and present-time Paris when the apartment's contents are assessed for auction and the controversy's that develop.  I found the historical part of this story fascinating.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  The Case Of The Missing Books, Ian Sansom.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  On Wings Of Eagles, Ken Follett.    

A cheery Spring season front window display.  

Another front window display.  No season like the present to find a great book here.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Devoted readers may recognize the illusive celebrity in the foreground.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

You can find some great bargains in this used book section, just to the right after entering the store.  Used books are also shelved throughout the store along with the new ones.  

A nice display of recent popular books.  

And you don't even have to leave Norfolk!  

Local artists are featured throughout the store, like the paintings along this wall.  All are available for purchase. 

The art work is represented in different mediums.  

I don't know if I've seen homemade coosies anywhere!

Lots of reason to visit this store, any day of the week!  

A portion of the books of local interest and local authors.  

A very comfortable place to sample a book.  

A portion of the attractive children's section.  

These are just some of the new Melissa & Doug line of items available in the store.  

What 8-year old wouldn't want this?!!

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

An assortment of puzzle books.  

This is one of my favorite things at Main Street Books and I haven't seen anything like it in any of my visits.  Come to the store on Wednesdays, make a purchase, and spin the wheel for a chance at an additional discount.  Fantastic idea and promotion!  

Of course!

I thought this was really cool.  I call it a hamburger rock, created by a local artist and available here.  

Other than the tall guy in the back, this is the Main Street all-star team.  In front, Barb on the left and Calvin on the right.  In back, Bonnell on the left and Chad on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Midtown Reader - Tallahassee, FL

Midtown Reader, Tallahassee, FL
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Over the course of my journey, I've met many bookstore owners who came to their profession and ownership from an entirely different world.  That's true for Sally B., the owner at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee.  I didn't meet Sally on the day of my visit but I did meet four of her wonderful booksellers, Elise, Darrell, Amanda, and Shelby who not only heartily endorsed Sally as the owner but also told me a bit about her story.  After a lengthy career as a spokesperson for a presidential candidate, she said enough of this, I'm going to open a bookstore.  And from my observations, it is a positive move for all involved.  A town that has had a void for 30+ years, a state capital no less, now has a welcome addition to the community of a new, general fiction bookstore.  I feel like I'm finding new bookstores more and more along my journey, very encouraging for the industry, our culture, and our heritage.

Midtown Reader is truly located in the midtown area of Tallahassee which is beginning to show signs of growth and development making this a great location.  They just opened this past November and the timing was perfect helping them to get off to a good start with the holiday season.  The staff is a community of readers with many interests helping to give the store a well-curated inventory.  And even though they're still identifying their customers, they're already seeing regulars.  The store is in a long, narrow space on one level that offers all new books, a few sidelines, a very attractive children's area, and Lucky Goat coffee, a local coffee and one of the best around (at least I know Elise likes it!).

In Midtown Readers' short history it's already doing everything that other successful indies are doing.  Lots of author events, weekly story time for kids that also includes doing a craft, and an electronic newsletter, just to name a few.  I thought the children's section and books of local/Florida interest were especially strong.  You can find staff selections throughout the store in addition to its own display.  But as always, the people were the best.  Shelby, Amanda, Darrell, and Elise were all super as were the several customers I met (shout out to Arthur!).  There is no reason for anyone NOT to visit here.

So now when you visit Tallahassee you'll have more to see than the state capital.  Check out this new member of the independent bookstore family.  You'll love the attractive store and the remarkable and friendly people you'll meet there.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  A Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable.

Another exterior view of the Midtown Reader, right next door to the Izzy Sushi Bar.  

A great patio area in front of the store.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

This is a version of staff picks.  See what the Midtown Reader booksellers are currently reading.  

A nice display of new fiction.  Have you read any of these yet?  

Relevant reading for today.  

Just a few of the books of local interest.  

The white tabs you see on the shelves are "shelf-talkers", they're staff picks.  

A portion of the beautiful children's section.  

A carved-out hideaway in the children's section.  Kids will love this area.  

They're also going to like these!  

Another nice table display.  

A few of the staff picks.  You'll also find them scattered throughout the store.  

Appropriate reading for Spring.  

A great place to try out a book.  

A local favorite, Lucky Goat Coffee, available here.  

The check-out counter, supported by books.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A great perk for the book club.  And heck, you might as well get another book while you're here!  

A few of the sidelines.  

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

The rock stars at Midtown Reader, L-R:  Elise, Darrell, Shelby, me, Amanda.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Page & Palette - Fairhope, AL

Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
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There's a reason that Page & Palette was one of the featured indies in Ron Rice's, My Bookstore.  In the words of Steph C., one of the veteran staffers, they have everything.  No argument here.  World's smallest vacuum?  Check.  Diaper tote bag?  Check.  Designer pillows?  Check.  Rear view spy glasses?  Check.  Greeting cards?  Well, of course.  And books galore!  Pair all of this with their very nice in-store cafe, Latté Da Coffee Shop (love the name!) and The Book Cellar where you can enjoy a beer or a wine and you now have a complete independent bookstore.  The way I see it, come early for a latte and a pastry, browse for books and read, visit The Book Cellar when happy hour rolls around, and then hang out in The Book Cellar for whatever author event will be in that area during the evening.  Good grief, just rent me a bedroom and I'm set!

Page & Palette has been around for about 50 years in a town of approximately 17,000.  Incredible when you think about towns much larger that have no bookstore at all, let alone one as complete as this.  The secret here is very familiar to successful indies.  A strong and loyal local customer base and a very good influx of tourists.  The other factors are the coffee shop, the wine and beer bar, the frequent events, and the diversity and volume of sidelines offered.  Stephanie thinks that the sidelines are an important part of any bookstore's business and it is definitely important here.  The other factors include a growing retirement community and a town that has an appreciation for artists and their work.  I thought Steph describe Fairhope best when she said it was vibrant and quaint.  From my observations, I think she's spot on.  

Speaking of vibrant, wait until you meet Steph.  She has an undeniable energy and enthusiasm, so much so that I had to stay on my toes to keep up.  Talking to me, making sales, talking to customers, and moving all around the store without missing a beat.  An impressive bookseller who was fantastic to meet and visit with.  

I didn't get to meet current owner, Karin W., but that's because she's also the mayor of Fairhope (I've always said bookstore people should have their own political party.  I feel my prophecy has been fulfilled).  But everyone I met at this award-winning bookstore couldn't have been nicer.  

So what are you waiting for?  If you're a regular, return there immediately.  If you're a newbie, go now and take a friend.  I guarantee you're going to love this place.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  The Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable, Dan Gable & Scott Schulte.   Dan Gable is the biggest name in the history of wrestling and he's from Iowa.  Even if you're not a wrestling fan, you will enjoy the many stories that he relates ranging from childhood, to college and the Olympics, and his family.  This is an easy read and I highly recommend it.   

CURRENTLY READING:  A Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Poet Of Tolstoy Park, Sonny Brewer.  Forsaken, Ross Howell Jr.  And gifted from Steph and the store, The Most They Ever Had, Rick Bragg.  Thanks Steph.

One of the exterior window displays.  

This is the view looking into Latté Da, the coffee shop.  You can enter here and then enter the bookstore through the cafe.

Or, you can enter through the bookstore entrance and this will be your view.  From here, you can enter Latté Da through the inside on the near right.  

What a great tradition in this community.  

Looking to the right from the bookstore entrance.  

You'll find just about any sidelines imaginable..

... like the world's smallest walkie talkies.  

A wonderful display of staff picks.   Astute readers may recognize the celebrity in the background browsing the bookshelf.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Half way through the store take a left into this area to find young adult lit and children's books.  

I think these might come in handy with the world's smallest walkie talkies.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

Another partial view of the children's section and a chair to read a book to one of the kids.  

Since I lose or break readers on just about every bookstore tour, I'm glad to find these displays.  

Find the books of authors who will be featured in the store with upcoming events.  

There are a variety of jewelry items and accessories here.  

Some very hip Natural Life handbags and totes.   The store carries a number of Natural Life items.   

These are some of the designer pillows you'll find here.  I thought these were great.  

I can't believe the variety of sidelines here.  

This is The Book Cellar.  Beer, wine, events, and one darn comfy couch.  

Another view of the Beer Cellar.  Lots of seating, beverages, a couch, all within a bookstore AND a large screen TV???  Where am I, Xanadu?  Yes please!  

These are only a few of the unique socks you'll find here.  

Don't think I've seen these anywhere!

An excellent selection of Europa publications.  

View from the back of the store's main room looking toward the front entrance.  
If your kids are in the local schools, come here for their books.  

With Steph, one of the fine booksellers at Page & Palette.  Thanks for a great visit.