Friday, April 19, 2019

Old Book Barn - Forsyth, IL

The Old Book Barn, Forsyth, IL
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I actually tried to visit the Old Book Barn two months ago but that was during the polar vortex/blizzard season and I had to postpone.  If I had known what I was going to find, I would've put on the thermals, hitched up the sled dogs, and mushed my way here.  This incredible store was worth the wait and was frankly overwhelming in the small town of Forsyth, IL.  But as Lori, one of the booksellers told me, this store has become a destination.  Clearly the word is starting to get out and I'm not surprised in the least to hear that this is a destination for book lovers.

What I am surprised about is that it has taken people so long to discover it.  The Old Book Barn began way back in 1981 and was located in an actual barn.  An old picture even shows hay in the store.  It's been in its current location though since 1985, a remarkable run for any bookstore.  According to Lori, the secret to success is a strong core of regulars (a characteristic shared by many successful bookstores) along with many tourists and travelers who are recently discovering this gem.  From my observations, I would add that Lori, along with owner Cheryl H. and husband Larry are a huge part of the store's success.  And as Lori told me, I can gladly share that things are going very well, especially the last couple of years.

The Old Book Barn offers new and used books but the bulk of their business is done with used books.  They offer customers store credit for the books they bring in that are in good condition.  The store also offers vintage and collectibles, available in-store or online.  This indie stretches 200,000+ books out in a warehouse building of over 14,000 square feet.  The organization, multiple displays, decor, and upkeep are impressive for a store this size.

Cheryl is the store's 3rd owner and has been here for over 20 years.  Her husband Larry is the self-proclaimed maintenance man and his finger print is all over this place from decorations, decor, and light fixtures, to roof repair.  Every bookstore could use a guy like this.  And Lori is one of the rock star booksellers who is responsible for the many creative table displays and book art seen throughout the store.  Along with the rest of the staff, these people are the heart and soul of the Old Book Barn.

Forsyth is located approximately equidistance between Chicago and St. Louis.  The next time you're traveling big city to big city, make this place your TRUE destination.  A bookstore that's now a destination and a national treasure.  Kudos Old Book Barn.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  The Boy Who Saw True, Anonymous, with a forward by Cyril Scott.  Originally published in 1953.  The fascinating story of a boy living in England in the late 1800s who was clairvoyant and able to see spirits and auras.  He kept a diary, recording his many experiences which was very interesting to read.  We don't know the boy's name and he stipulated that the diary couldn't be published until years after his death.  It took me awhile to get use to the style of writing, but once I did this was very enjoyable.  Exactly the fun kind of book to look for in a used book store.  Recommended.    

CURRENTLY READING:  The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah.

Exterior view of a store that has 14,000 butt kickin' square feet of books.  And keep in mind, this is only a partial view of the exterior. 

Booksellers across the country have kindly welcomed me enthusiastically but I've never had a welcome sign!

This tiny little bargain book cart is a speck of dust compared to what you'll see when you get inside.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Beyond this view, the store expands far to the right and left as well as straight ahead.  

Hand bags for sale just inside the front door.  

One of the many decorative table displays in the store.  Notice the book art on the table, a nice touch done by Lori.  

Just inside the front entrance you'll see the counter where you'll bring in your used books for trade.  

Grab bag of books for a great price.  This is kind of like the blind date with a book promotions offered in many bookstores.  
If you don't want the grab bag, take a book on a blind date.  

Lots of lanterns near the checkout area.  This is an area that Larry keeps decorated relevant to the season.  

A few items of local and regional interest.  
Many bookstores have shopping baskets, few have shopping carts.    

There are not many sidelines here, but they do offer an assortment of greeting cards.  

Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb fans will love this display.  

Take a few steps into the store, look to the right, and this is your view  

Take a few steps into the store, look to the left, and this is your view.  

The children's section is right in the middle of the store.  

This is a picture of the original Old Book Barn.  It was really a barn, notice the hay in the hay loft.  

Creative table displays can be found everywhere.  

One of the many genre specific book nooks.  

I think the decor throughout the store is fabulous. 

Don't bring in your stinkers.  

Countless shelves and aisles like this.  

Empty shelves in some bookstores could be a bad sign.  In The Old Book Barn I take this as a good sign.  Room for more books!
Your typical Stephen King fan. 

The Abraham Lincoln and Civil War genres are strong.  

Lots of genre specific book rooms.  

Another strong section of the store.  

The cookbooks were a strong section, but honestly, they have any genre you want here.  

Vintage book room that also has vintage sheet music.  

There are four store cats here but I can only confirm one with this visual.  Keep your eyes open for Molly and the others.  

Some of Lori's wonderful book art.  You can find it throughout the store.  

Above the entrance to the western room.  

The store also offers CDs and DVDs.  

At The Old Book Barn, you can do this season year round. 

With Larry in the center and Lori on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at The Old Book Barn.  Thanks for a great visit. 

I didn't think I was going to meet Cheryl, the owner, on the day of my visit but I was very happy to meet her when she came in just as I was getting ready to leave.  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bright Light Books - Fern Park, FL

Bright Light Books, Fern Park, FL
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Boy readers, do I have some super news for you.  First, you're going to easily find a few things for your bookshelves at this Fern Park indie.  BUT, if for some unbelievable reason you can't, there is another Bright Light Books in Oneida.  AND if you STILL can't find what you want (impossible, you're not trying!), Bright Light Books has a warehouse of books.  See what I mean?  If you're in the central Florida region, your book needs are pretty much covered by this terrific indie and three locations.

Co-owner Scott H., along with wife Amy, began this business by selling books out of his garage (uh oh, look away Indie Bob, look away).  From those humble beginnings an incredible business has grown into two retail stores and a warehouse.  It has also evolved to include DVDs, blu-ray, CDs, music on vinyl, and vintage and collectible editions.  Most of these collectibles are sold online from the store's website, but you can also purchase any of the store's inventory from their website.  The store has a devoted core of regular customers, some who come in daily like Alejandro who I met on the day of my visit.  These customers receive cash or store credit for the books they bring in.  There are also customers who simply donate their books, a wonderful way to eliminate overhead for any used book store.  If you happen to be in the area on a Saturday, stop by the warehouse for its weekly sale of books.  Many of these are sold by the box load for one low price.  The store also offers a few new books, mostly recent releases.  I thought the prices on these were outstanding.  The business has been around for about 10 years and this store has been open for about 7.

I didn't get to meet Scott or Amy on the day of my visit but the store was in great hands with Helen and Devin.  Helen was wonderful to talk to and told me a lot about how things are going (quite well) and the growth of the store.  She did all this while helping a store full of customers on a busy day.

If you live in this area and tell me you can't find a thing to read, I will shake my head.  After I wipe the look of disbelief off my face, I'll point you to Bright Light Books in Fern Park where the terrific people who work there will easily resolve your bookless day.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Mississippi Blood, Greg Iles.  The final book in the Natchez Burning trilogy.  This book tries to resolve a case against the town's beloved doctor since the 60s, accused of murdering his  nurse after she returns to Natchez from Chicago to die at the end of her life.  Racial boundaries continue to blur and old prejudices continue to fester.  For some in the south, the Civil War never ended.  I highly recommend this book as well as the entire trilogy but don't think you can read this one without reading the first two.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Boy Who Saw True, Anonymous with a forward by Cyril Scott.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Stranger In The Woods, Michael Finkel.  The Beatles/1962-1966, two-CD set.

In Florida, you can pretty much shop outside year round.  

And it shows with their inventory.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Pictured is an excellent inventory of music on CD.  

Attractive display just to the left after entering the store.  

A better picture of just a few of the CDs available.  

To the left of the main entrance, you'll see this long book aisle.  

Lots of music on vinyl and something here for Stevie Wonder fans.  

This area in the front of the store is packed with movies and music.  

A few of the vintage and collectibles available.  Check online for more.  

Partial view of the staff picks display.  

Advice that many take to heart.  

One of the several book nooks.  Most of them will have a chair to make it easier to spend time trying out a book.  

A few of the items of local and regional interest but there are many more than these.  

Another book nook and another nice place to sample a book.  

If comics are your thing, look for this display.  

Another room with more books.  

Overview of the store from back toward the front entrance.  

Find this sign if you're on a budget.  

Or find this one.  

Part of the children's section.  

Partial view of the children's section.  

ALWAYS, always, always, ask about this at any indie.  

Get your Bright Light swag right at the check-out counter.  

A creative book-themed clock.  I've seen very few of these along my journey.  

Yes please!  Bring the kids to Bright Lights for a wonderful customer incentive.  

A collection of leather-bound Jane Austen.  

Ask about a coffee while you browse.  

With Helen, one of the fine booksellers at Bright Light Books.  Thanks for a great visit.