Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Copperfield Book Service - Macomb, IL

New Copperfield Book Service - Macomb, IL

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Regular readers of The Indie Bob Spot will know how much I enjoy the people I get to meet in the many bookstores I visit.  It is almost as important to my experience as the bookstores themselves.  When I talk to the owners and booksellers, occasionally I'll have to prompt them a bit to get them going.  Kind of like priming the mower to get it started.  Not so here at New Copperfield Book Service.  I had the pleasure of meeting Linda C., the co-owner here, and after I introduced myself and my project that was all that was needed.  She was effusive, energetic, and enthusiastic about everything she talked about.  There is no way I could absorb everything she shared with me and there is no doubt she is all in when it comes to independent bookstores and small business.

This town is home to Western Illinois University which is usually a good sign for bookstores but the university's presence is not critical to the store's success.  The customers are largely townspeople and farmers, with some retired university faculty and some current faculty and students sprinkled in.  Many bookstores need a good sideline business to be successful but here the books are able to carry the load.  There are some unique sidelines here though including some incredible photo prints in the gallery area.  As for books, the store offers new books and some used books but there is no book buy-back program similar to what other indies have.  The used books here are DONATED by loyal local customers and also by friends of the library.  A sure sign of strong local support.

The one-level store is divided into three sections.  Linda calls the front the performance area, the rear of the store is the gallery, and the middle the books.  There are occasional author events here and many musical events.  What a great way to bring more customers into the store!

Linda kept referring back to the great community support that has sustained this store.  She told me about many examples but there was one that stuck with me.  A few years ago, her partner and co-owner, Rick, required a kidney transplant.  They are the only two employees and there was no way she could continue the business on her own.  The community stepped up.  I'm sure I only know a fraction of the help they provided, but thanks to 5-15 volunteers, the store stayed open and moved forward.  Local support is such a strong indicator for successful bookstores.

I haven't reported lately on cats in bookstores.  They have one here that is totally spoiled and does not care to leave the store.  And you won't get a word out of the cat.  But Linda?  You'll get a lot out of her and you'll love every minute of it!  Don't pass up this terrific bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Weird Things Customers Say In Bookstores, Jen Campbell.  An easy, quick, humorous book filled with quotes overheard in bookstores.  A nice change of pace book and I'm pretty sure everyone who has been to a bookstore would enjoy this one.  That means everyone reading this blog!  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  A Tale For The Time Being, Ruth Ozeki.  Enjoying it so far and I see no reason for that to change.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Bootlegger, John E. Hallwas.

Front window display with an unfortunate shadow of the photographer.  

Are you kidding me?  3 days worth?  If we get hit with a 3 YEAR blizzard I think I have enough!  

View from the front entrance looking toward the rear.  Astute readers may recognize the celebrity on the left.  Yes, that's my mom.  

A wonderful area in the front of the store to try out a book and sit with some friends.  

Some of the book club choices.  

New releases featured on a wall with a mirror.  This use to be a shoe store and back in the day you could see shoes on this wall.  

Try not to let your snoring annoy the other customers.  

Lots of local interests and local authors.  

A portion of the children's section.  

View from the rear of the store, near the gallery, looking toward the front.  

Need it wrapped?  They can do it!

A portion of the gallery area near the rear of the store.  

Some great reasons to patronize your local independent bookstore.  

How much do the regular customers like New Copperfield?  Enough to give them a gift of these figurines.  

With Rick H. and Linda C., the fine owners of New Copperfield Book Service.  Thanks for a great visit!  

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Bookmark - Ft. Madison, IA

The Bookmark - Ft. Madison, IA
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Readers, if you've never been to a Mississippi River town, you need to put it on your list.  These towns have such great historical homes and districts, quaint neighborhood parks, old railroad depots, and more.  And when you visit THIS scenic river town, you'll also be able to spend time at a great independent bookstore.

This store is another example of how book owners refer me to other bookstores, truly a shared brotherhood and sisterhood among these owners.  When I told Chris at Burlington By The Book about my project, he told me I have to go see Bonnie in Ft. Madison at The Bookmark.  Thank goodness he did because this was a great find.  But this is nothing surprising for the people in Ft. Madison.  This one-level store has been doing business for 20 years which is remarkable for this sized community of approximately 11,000.  It has a great corner location in the heart of the historic business district.  The success of this indie falls directly on the shoulders of its owner, Bonnie, and her husband Mike.  That's the staff here and if Bonnie needs additional help she can call on a friend or two.

As you would expect, business here is strongly local.  The summer and fall months bring good tourist traffic into the store, which is huge.  This store also enjoys good business with the schools and library.  The website is outdated but Bonnie can order any book you want.  There is a great assortment of magazines and sidelines which are an important part of the profit margin here, similar to other indies.  When I asked Bonnie about the secrets to her success she said customer service.  That is one of the common denominators with successful indies and another reason I enjoy buying from these fine stores.

When you visit The Bookmark and meet Bonnie you will have a wonderful experience.  She is the quintessential definition of "midwest friendly."  She told me a lot about the store, how she got started, and the history of the building.  And even though this is a small store in a small community, it still  hosts occasional author events.  Renowned author Sandra Dallas is a regular here even though she lives in Colorado.

This entry about The Bookmark is old news for the people of Ft. Madison.  For all you others?  Put this town and its established independent bookstore on your list.  Another community lucky to have their own bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST GAVE UP:  Hild, Nicola Griffith.  Couldn't.  I think this is probably a great story but it is written with lots of 7th-century vocabulary which made it difficult for me.  But many others rave about this one.

JUST FINISHED:  The Last Duel, Eric Jager.  True story of the last duel in medieval France about a man accusing another of raping his wife.  Reads like a novel and history enthusiasts will enjoy this.  I loved it.  Recommended to me by Joyce Meskis at The Tattered Cover.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Weird Things Customers Say In Bookstores, Jen Campbell.  I thought this was an obvious choice for me.  Very light reading and enjoying it.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson.

Store front view with lots of reflection.  I'd be on that bench with a book on a nice summer day!

Another exterior view with another reflection!

A sentiment shared by all indies.  

The entrance to the store is from the inside of a building.  This is the view from the entrance looking toward the street where the front window is.  Conscientious readers will note the celebrity sighting in this small town, yes that's my mom.  

View looking toward the rear of the store where the children's section is located.  

A great selection of greeting cards.  

Many customers come here for magazines.  

Lots of varieties of scented candles.  

Watching your budget?  You're covered.  Find this section.  

Some of the sidelines include this collection of puzzles.  

View from the street side window looking toward the rear of the store.  

A better view of the children's section in the rear.  

This store is directly across from The Bookmark.  Need some chocolate?  This is your stop.  

With Bonnie, the fine owner of The Bookmark.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Burlington By The Book - Burlington, IA

Burlington By The Book - Burlington, IA

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If I were to compare bookstores to football players this place would be an offensive lineman.  The player nobody knows but always gets the job done, toiling away in obscurity.  Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers?  Yeah, we've all heard of them.  They're called Powell's and The Strand in bookstore land.  But this place in Burlington is the store that quietly goes about making it happen and giving a good name to bookstores everywhere.  And like that offensive lineman, people need to know about this place!

This one-level bookstore located in the heart of downtown Burlington has been in business for 4 years.  And in this small Mississippi River town I think this is a good sign.  Chris, the owner, admits that the store has struggles and challenges but he is making it work.  He has a small part-time staff of 3 and also has a great support system that includes his mom and dad who offer their assistance in the store when he needs it.  The store consists of all new books, magazines and newspapers, and lots of sidelines with the emphasis on items and gifts of local interest.  There is a nice children's section in the rear of the store.  The customer base here is largely local and there are certainly regular customers who frequent the store.  Additionally, the summer months bring a nice influx of tourists thanks to the cruise riverboats on the Mississippi.  The store is located only a few blocks from the river.

It is always nice to meet the owners on my visits and today was no exception.  These people are always great ambassadors and advocates for independent bookstores.  Chris stated that it's tough to change people's shopping habits here (e.g. "let's go to the mall"), but slowly those changes are happening.  He also hosts author signings, many of them with local ties.  Clearly, Chris and this store are deeply invested in the community, something that should continue to show dividends moving forward.

If you're in the Burlington area and haven't been to this store, you need to check it out.  The community is lucky to have a nice independent bookstore, as many other communities aren't so fortunate.  But when you visit this store I don't want you to think of it as Burlington By The Book.  Instead, when you visit this indie you must consider it Burlington BUY The Book!  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Let The Great World Spin, Colum McCann.  Couldn't get into it.  Gets some good reviews from many and also won a book award but I had trouble with the writing.  I thought it was too disjointed.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Last Duel, Eric Jager.  Non-fiction.

Great front window display.  

Exterior view.  

Great sign for those of us in the cold!

Looking toward the rear of the store from the front entrance.  

If you're going on a long drive to visit a bookstore, pick up an audiobook.  

Lots of local interest items here.

Kids will like some of the sidelines here.  

Find a bargain or two here.  

Assorted greeting cards.  

Find some art by one of the local artists.  

If your kids like to collect bugs you'll need this!  Whatever happened to using the Skippy jar with a few holes punched in the lid??!!

Great selection of magazines.  

You and a friend can sit here and try out a book.  

Another great chair to browse a book.  Thank goodness for stores that have chairs!  

A portion of the children's section.  

View from the rear of the store looking toward the front.  

Half-price bargains on the shelves so you can stock up!  

Where else can you get astronaut ice cream but at an independent bookstore!  

This has something to do with Dr. Who.  This may mean something to the Dr. Who fans but I'm not up on it. 
With Chris, the fine owner at Burlington By The Book.  Thanks for a great visit!