Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Magic Tree Bookstore - Oak Park, IL

The Magic Tree Bookstore, Oak Park, IL
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It's the dead of winter, a gray day with -20 wind chills and it's a wind that bites, snow flurries in the air, a day not fit for either man or beast.  In other words, a perfect day to visit a perfect bookstore and I found just the one!

Chicago and the surrounding suburbs is a great area to find some of the country's finest bookstores and although I've seen many of them, there are still plenty more for me to visit (thank goodness!).  The Magic Tree Bookstore is located right downtown in the western suburb of Oak Park, a great location.  This one-level store has been in business for 30+ years and the last two under the ownership of Beth A., only the 2nd owner in its long run.  Magic Tree began as an all children's bookstore and has recently evolved into a store that offers books to all readers.   As Beth told me, because of the store's small sizer she and her staff carefully curate their adult inventory offering only what they think will be appealing to their customers.

In addition to new books for all ages, they offer a few sidelines including greeting cards, journals, and lots of interesting things for kids.  As an acknowledgement to the community's diversity, they also have a section of foreign language children's books.  They have a great partnership with all the schools and their community ties also include a contest for kids to make the store's bookmarks.  What a great idea for any indie.  The store is also able to offer author events hosted right on site.

I had an absolutely great time meeting Beth and one of her booksellers, Andrea.  These two are the best and so much fun to talk to about books.  I was so happy to hear from Beth how well things are going.  The business is showing good positive growth, they're noticing an upward trend in the buy local movement, and one of my favorite things to hear is she has a terrific group of people on staff.

Oak Park has some wonderful attractions including the home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright and boyhood home of Ernest Hemingway and the Ernest Hemingway Museum.  Meh.  Big whoop.  For me the big deal in Oak Park is a wonderful independent bookstore and the great people who work there.  Check this place out for a winning bookstore experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Slider, Pete Hautman.  This would be considered YA or middle reader fiction.  Great story of the middle child in a family who eats so much that he becomes a competitive eater.  After a mistake using his mom's credit card, he needs money to pay her back so enters a pizza-eating contest in hopes of winning the cash prize.  All the while balancing this with helping his younger autistic brother.  A fun, light read that is the perfect thing to intersperse between your thick, serious books.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Black Elk Speaks, John Neihardt.

Another exterior view.  

The store has lots of window display space.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Curious readers may recognize the celebrity browsing books.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance where an eager shopper is already engaged.  
This is the view along the left wall after entering.  Kids will love this section.  

A relevant display in the children's section.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A great place to sit and sample a book.  

The Wimpy Kid books are a great series for kids.  

Another great area to sit and try out some books.  

The store has books for all ages and many languages.  

A nice display of pre-school books.  

This is the magic tree, in the center of the store.  Notice all the wide green ribbons running out from the tree.  You can see this from anywhere in the store.  This is also where you'll find the check-out counter.   

These staff picks are right inside the front door but you'll also see staff picks throughout the store with shelf talkers.

Those white tabs you see hanging from the shelves are called shelf talkers.  Just another way to find staff picks and you'll find that many indies use these. 

If you have a Batman fan at your house, come to Magic Tree and find these to create your own Batman story.  

If you have a Sesame Street fan at your house, come to Magic Tree for these darling characters.  

You can tell that the store was founded as a children's bookstore, there are signs of that throughout the store.  

Any Groovy Girls fans at your house?  Here you go!

One more way to attract the kids.  

Who doesn't like stickers?!

An overview of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance.  

With Beth in the center and Andrea on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at The Magic Tree Bookstore.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bound Booksellers - Franklin, TN

Bound Booksellers, Franklin, TN
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Every bookstore I visit has a different personality and character, each unique to itself.  What is less clear is where that personality comes from.  On the day of my visit to Bound Booksellers, it clearly came from their rock-star bookseller, Olivia R.  It is so refreshing to meet a young lady who is conversant and knowledgeable about books AND has the personality to deliver it.  I didn't meet the husband and wife co-owners, Kelly and Chad, but I know that they have a talent for hiring good help and they got a good one with Olivia.  She was the perfect person to leave in charge as the ambassador of Bound Booksellers.

Bound Booksellers is a brand new sparking bookstore, just over a year old.  This reaffirms what I'm finding with new bookstores continuing to open.  It is a small space on a lower level in the Westhaven Town Center, a new development that has lots of retail and residential opportunities, a great location.  Even though the store is small, it has a lot of inventory and is smartly organized and arranged thanks to Kelly's expertise and background in interior design.  The store offers all new books and several sidelines including greeting cards, journals, candles, mugs, and stuffed animals that you can buy and pair with the children's books it matches.  The greeting cards were very creatively arranged on the back of a garage door which was a loading dock for a previous business.  The store hosts occasional events, including an outdoor story time during the summer months in a great patio area.  But my favorite event they do is a visit from Santa who reads, Twas The Night Before Christmas.  He also autographs any books they buy.  I'm not surprised that Olivia told me this is a huge hit with the kids and I think this would be an event every indie could do.

The store's business is going very well and the sales during the holiday season were so good that they had to close for two days to regroup.  Good job, Bookbound, good job, Franklin.  

I'm sure there are people that haven't found Bookbound Booksellers yet.  You are in for a wonderful surprise when you discover this bookstore.  Enjoy your visit, browse, converse, and return again for a terrific bookstore experience at a place that will remind you that dynamite comes in small packages.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt.  This book is historical fiction about the Lizzie Borden crime.  Even though it is fiction, the author did a lot of research and there is a lot of truth here.  I love the premise of this book, looking at the crime from the perspective of different people but I found the writing to be clunky and not easily readable.  It just didn't have a flow.    

CURRENTLY READING:  Slider, Pete Hautman.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Scroll down to the last picture to see the hip Bookbound shirt I bought.

This is a portion of the beautiful patio area outside the bookstore.  This area is used for children's story time during the summer months.  

A nice large display window.  

View looking into the store and toward the right from the front entrance.  

This indie will see that Santa gets your letters.  

Just inside the front entrance and to the left, these greeting cards are arranged in the inside of a garage door.  Another wonderful example of the creativity you find at independent bookstores. 

Another picture of what I described above.  

Have a seat and try out a book on this neatly arranged couch.  

Attractive store display.  

Who needs paper and pencil to play tic-tac-toe!  Have a game here while you ponder more books.

It's always good to read a book with a nice cup of coffee or tea.  

Kids can get a book and then find a stuffed animal to match it.  

A portion of the children's section.  

If you come here looking for party ideas, there are lots of books and sidelines for that.  

The store keeps books on hand that match the reading lists from some of the schools.  

Have you ever seen a perpetual calendar?  They're pretty cool and they have them here at Bookbound.  

ALWAYS ask your bookstore about gift cards.  I think these are the best.  

Ask your independent bookstore about digital audiobooks, another way to support your local indie.  

Overview of the bookstore from the checkout counter near the back. 

With Olivia on the left, one of the fine booksellers at Bound Booksellers.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

Reading Rock Books - Dickson, TN

Reading Rock Books, Dickson, TN
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There are some bookstores I visit that make me wonder how they ever came up with their name.  How the heck is Reading Rock Books relevant to the owners or the town?  It's really a simple story.  Laura H., one of the co-owners along with her sister Amy, came up with the name recalling the days when she was a child and enjoyed sitting and reading on a large rock.  A great name for a bookstore to honor a life's passion for reading and now reflected in a store title.

Reading Rock Books is a one-level store in downtown Dickson.  They've been in business for just under ten years and over that time have seen the emergence of other complimentary small businesses in the downtown which is a plus.  I think their modest longevity is all the more impressive in a town of approximately 15,000.  When the store opened it filled a void in the town due to a bookstore that closed and then the closing of a Christian bookstore.  In this case, timing was everything for Reading Rock.

The store offers a good assortment of new and used books as well as a variety of sidelines including greeting cards, journals, jigsaw puzzles, t-shirts, and lots of kid's items.  They have a nice children's section which includes a line of the popular Melissa and Doug items.  There is a large room in the back where you'll find all the used books and many comfortable places to sit and try them out.  They also hold occasional author events in this area.  Customers who bring in used books are given store credit that they can use to purchase used books.  After you're done shopping, stop in next door at House Blend Coffee and start reading your books.  Another reason Reading Rock Books has a great location.

I didn't get to meet Laura or Amy during my visit but I did meet Mary P. who was very kind to visit with me about the store and all kinds of books.  People like this make it easy for me to put these write-ups together and I'm always so appreciative of our conversations.  

So it's all systems 'go' at Reading Rock Books.  Full steam ahead with a core of regular customers along with out-of-towners and tourists.  And the free parking on the street couldn't make this place any easier to visit.  If you're in the Dickson area, take advantage of a local gem where all the regulars understand the importance of "buy local, shop local."  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Highway, C. J. Box.  Probably one of the creepiest books I have ever read.  It will keep you on the edge of your seat all the way to the end.  Two young girls disappear without a trace and a long haul trucker is the suspect.  But he has help from a corrupt law enforcement officer.  I  haven't read this author before and discovered him thanks to a bookseller in Wyoming.  I'll be reading more of his stuff.  If this is your kind of genre, I would highly recommend this one.  

CURRENTLY READING:  See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt.

Exterior storefront.  
One of the display windows with a seasonal theme.  

The store has great window display space.

View looking into the store from the front entrance.

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  Alert readers may recognize the celebrity browsing for a purchase.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Nice assortment of literary-themed t-shirts inside the front entrance.  

A nice display with a variety of sidelines.  

Shelves to the immediate right of the front entrance.  

Kids will like items from Mudpuppy.  

A portion of the children's section.  

A nice place to sit and sample a few books.  

The store has several "nooks" like this one.  

Look for these shelf-talkers throughout the store for staff recommendations.  

Seasonal table display.  

If you don't live in Dickson and want to support this indie, visit their website and place an order there.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

View looking into the back room where you can find all the used books.  This is also the area they use for events.  Lots of space and lots of places to sit and get comfy.  I love this room.  

Just a couple of the seats you can find in the used book room.  

Or you can get serious about your book sampling on this couch.  

Kids will find lots of fun things here.  

Shop local, buy local.  

Can't remember if I've seen this anywhere.  A wooden stand for your book, including wooden tabs at the bottom of the stand to hold the pages.  

With Mary, one of the fine booksellers at Reading Rock Books.  Thanks for a great visit.