Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Among The Stacks - Mt. Vernon, IA

Among The Stacks - Mt. Vernon, IA

I'm so excited I could pee my pants.  I've been excited ever since I found out the news a few weeks ago.  Regular readers know about the many indies I've had the good fortune to visit.  All with their own stories and history.  But never have I had the pleasure to witness the birth of an independent bookstore. Heck, I was even the first one to enter!  This place is a true baby, an infant.  It  has no history.  It makes Literati in Ann Arbor, Michigan look like an old-timer.  So it gives me great pleasure to announce the opening of an independent bookstore.  I invite all bookstore enthusiasts and indie owners and staffers to use your creative powers of communication and send a congratulatory message to Laura B., the owner at Among The Stacks.

Regular readers also know that these posts may include information about store history, local support, customer base, best-selling sidelines and books, and more.  With Among The Stacks I'm unable to comment on any of these items.  But that's also what's so exciting.  It's going to be fun to watch this store grow, evolve, and ultimately succeed.  And I believe it will.  Among The Stacks is located in a small college town that is already home to a small collection of nice yet diverse shops, restaurants, and watering holes.  In other words, a very cool town.  And in this small, vibrant college town one of the few things missing is an independent bookstore.

The store itself is located in a historic brick building on the main street of downtown.  The first floor is antiques, gifts, and art and the 2nd floor is the bookstore.  There are multiple rooms with different genres in each room.  She has great space in this store but I honestly think she could easily outgrow it.  No cafĂ© but there is a room where you can have a cup of coffee and sit.  Laura has done a lot of work and research to pull this off.  She's 100% committed but she's also aware of the risks.  I think she's picked the perfect town for her bookstore.  She plans to be very engaged with the community and Cornell College which is located here.  In fact tomorrow, day 2, she's already hosting an author event with Heather Gudenkauf.

This is a cool college town, like many I've been to that have independent bookstores.  If you've never been to Mt. Vernon, put it on your list.  If you live within driving distance you must go.  And how cool is it to talk about an indie opening instead of an indie closing?!  Congratulations to Laura B. and Among The Stacks.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson.  Odd and quirky.  I like it.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Team Of Rivals, Doris Goodwin Kearns.  I've heard good things but this sucker is huge.  Hope I'm up to it.

Before (call this the sonogram!)
After.  Find new and current fiction in this room.  
Same space after opening.  This is kind of a hall area.  The rooms all open off of this area.  
Exterior view of Among The Stacks.  

I was here on Day 1.  This is the ribbon cutting.  The ribbon is made of book pages.  Amy, a staffer, on the left and the owner, Laura B. on the right.  

Laura B., the proud owner of Among The Stacks.  

Follow this sign and proceed upstairs.  

Congratulations to the first two customers in the store.  Visit often and bring your friends!

Some of the sidelines.  

Another display of sidelines.  

This is part of the children's area which is still evolving.  

Every room has different books.  This one features some cookbooks and food books, among other things.  

A great room to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee.  

This use to be a bathroom.  Books in the sink and on the shelves.  And that chair is what I really call a throne!  

Another one of the rooms.  

This room has more books and is also where you'll make your purchase when you visit.  

There are several places to sit here and try out a book.  

Yours truly with Laura B.  Congrats Laura!  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Book Loft - Columbus, OH

The Book Loft - Columbus, OH

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Roger.  This store is really about Roger, his vision, his passion, his unconditional loyalty to this independent bookstore.  I didn't get to meet Roger today but I sure got to know him through his colleagues and current co-owner, Carl.  Roger passed away two years ago but in my one hour conversation with Carl he is clearly remembered and thought of very highly.  I can't begin to relate everything that Carl shared with me but I can condense it down to one simple observation.  This indie wouldn't be here if it weren't for Roger.  Let me state very clearly in words that every reader should know.  Book Loft customers all owe a debt of gratitude to Roger for this wonderful indie in the German Village of Columbus.  Thanks Roger.

This bookstore opened in 1977, with little to no money (don't all indies start like this?) and in a smaller space than its current size.  Yes, it advertises 32 rooms of books.  I don't know if that includes the books that are also in the nooks and crannies.  There are also books outside.  Portions of this store are housed in buildings that pre-date the Civil War.  One of these may have even been a "house of ill-repute," well over a century ago.  If you're a history buff instead of a bookworm, there is plenty in this neighborhood to attract your attention.  The store itself rambles up and down and front to back, on multiple and somewhat asymmetrical levels.  This creates a maze-like effect that can be rather confusing for first time visitors but that's all part of the fun on your visit.

The inventory is massive with both books and sidelines.  The prices are some of the best I've seen at an independent.  Lots and lots of greeting cards and you find these all over the store.  Also lots of music gift items, CDs, DVDs, book bags, and t-shirts.  In fact, if you wear your Book Loft t-shirt into the store you get an additional 10% off your purchase.  I think this is fantastic and wish more indies would consider something like this, a wearable coupon!  In some ways, this reminds me of a condensed Powell's in Portland, Oregon.  Powell's is considerably larger in size, but Book Loft has so much in their multiple levels and rooms.  Narrow aisles, stairways, and passages so watch your step.  If you are looking for a place to sit consider going to a bench outside in the courtyard entrance or pull up a foot stool used for shelving.  Just not enough space for chairs.  Another cool thing is you can hear different music in the different rooms.  Everything from John Lee Hooker and B.B King, to Gregorian Chant and Celtic Hymns.  Very nice.

This is an award winning bookstore.  The beautiful garden/courtyard area just won an award this year.  My pictures don't do it justice.  But most of all, the people here are the true award winners.  Carl, the co-owner along with Russell; John, the manager; and staffers like Debbie and Glenn.  As with so many of my visits on this journey, all of these people were wonderful to talk to and shared with me lots of great information and stories about this store.  I know they miss Roger though and all that he did and sacrificed for this store.  But they continue to remember him and as long as they do that I think his presence will continues to be felt here.  If you live in the Columbus area and haven't been to this indie you're making a big mistake.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

RECENTLY FINISHED:  The Martian, Andy Weir.  It was ok.  An astronaut is left on Mars and survives on his own while NASA tries to figure out if he can be rescued.  If you're into math, chemistry science, or outer space, you'll especially enjoy this.

CURRENTLY READING:  Euphoria, Lily King.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving.  Room, Emma Donoghue.

Approaching The Book Loft of German Village from across the street.  

No caption needed.  

A portion of the front of the historic Book Loft building.  

This is your entrance into the store, through the courtyard/garden to a side door ahead on the right.  

Another view of the courtyard looking towards the front street.  

The outside of the store on the side of the building after walking through the courtyard.  

New books waiting to find a home on the shelves.  These are probably long gone by now!

Some of the sidelines.  This store has one of the largest selection of jigsaw puzzles anywhere. 

The rooms are numbered to help you locate your interests.  

One of the narrow aisles.  

Room 13 for the above items.  

Portion of a wall with a variety of bookmarks available.  

Follow the directions to your favorite rooms.  

Greeting cards can be found all over the store.  

The comic book room.  

A great children's area.  Lots of stuff here.  

Best sellers display.  

Different music is played in different rooms throughout the store.  If you hear something you like in one of the rooms, you can find it here.  

???  What the heck is Taschen?  I don't know but they have it!  

Lots of t-shrits here.  

Yes please.  

A few of the well-deserved awards displayed here at The Book Loft.  

Carl, the co-owner in the center and John, the manager on the right.  Thanks for a great visit!

One last view of the beautiful courtyard entryway at the Book Loft.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Literati Bookstore - Ann Arbor, MI

Literati Bookstore - Ann Arbor, MI

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There are many independent bookstores around the country with long and storied histories.  Some deep in tradition, some in business for decades, some owned within families for generations.  These independents have carved the way and set the example for a new wave of bookstores.  Enter Literati Books of Ann Arbor.  It's a baby, only 16 months old.  It remains to be seen if it will become one of those storied or legendary bookstores.  But if the first 16 months are any indication it is off to a terrific start.  I think it's fantastic to be able to talk about the opening of an indie instead of sadly noting the closing of an independent bookstore.

A person today does not go into the bookstore business without having their eyes wide open.  The owners here, Mike and Hilary, have done their homework before opening their store.  Hilary has a background in publishing so she has been around the business and has most likely seen good and bad examples of independent bookstores.  It's obvious that she has put that expertise to good use here at Literati.  This two-level independent has a good, diverse inventory of books, reflective of the differing tastes and backgrounds of the staff members.  There are a few sidelines but not many.  They have greeting cards designed by local artists as well as t-shirts and bookbags, to name a few.  They're active with author visits and those events are held on the lower level.  It's also a plus here that the University of Michigan has a great MFA program.  Participants in this program are often featured here at author events, a great advantage for this indie.  There is also a functional manual typewriter on the lower level where customers can type out a message and maybe see it posted in the store.

I didn't get to meet Mike and Hilary on this visit but I did meet the fine manager here, Jeanne, and Sharon, one of the staffers.  I'm always grateful when a manager or owner takes time to talk to me during my visits.  After all, I really am nothing more than an ordinary book customer.  On this visit, Jeanne could not have been more generous with her time or more accommodating.  It was very interesting to hear from her about the start of this business and how well things are going so far.  The customer base includes many from the university community, professors and students as well as many involved in the MFA program.  Even though the store is located in downtown Ann Arbor, there is also some good business from out of town customers.

There is not a live cat in this bookstore (well, not a dead one either), so what does this indie have that others might not?  Typewriters.  No batteries to recharge, no cords to plug in, no wifi to access.  Children, this is how we used to write books.  So when you visit this indie, go to the typewriter downstairs.  Figure out how to put the paper in and type out a message.  One customer even typed out a marriage proposal.  This indie is off to a great start and the best is yet to come.  I'm pretty sure I know what I would type on that typewriter.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Martian, Andy Weir.  It's growing on me.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  A Tale For The Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

View of the main level upon entering.  Astute readers may notice a celebrity doing some book browsing.  Yes, that's my mom.  

I really like the t-shrits here.  

View along the wall to the right upon entering.  

A straight shot back on the main level and notice the celebrity is continuing to browse this fine bookstore.  

Always like seeing the staff picks.  

And another staff pick display.  

I'm always looking for a chair to try out a book.  

A very active schedule of events at this indie.  

This is along the wall beside the stairway on the way down to the lower level.  Nice use of space.  

The theme at this indie is typewriters and this is the one that any customer can use.   If they can figure out how to put the paper in.  

A great lower level.  

This area on the lower level is used for in-store author events.  There really is good space here after rearranging the shelves in the middle.  

The kind of cat that won't set off my allergies.  

Greeting cards designed by local artists.  

More t-shirts and magazines.  

Sharon on the left and Jeanne on the right.  Hey, Hilary & Mike, these two are keepers!  Consider giving them generous raises!