Monday, June 29, 2015

The Book Shoppe Inc. - Boone, IA

The Book Shoppe Inc. - Boone, IA
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Hey central Iowa, you need to wake-up and smell the coffee.  You have a wonderful independent bookstore right under your nose but apparently some of you are late to the party.  It's been here for about seven years so you're out of excuses.  When you visit The Book Shoppe Inc. you'll discover the same thing I did, a terrific independent bookstore with great people and lots of books.

This one-level indie is located in the downtown district of Boone, IA, population approximately 12,000, a great location with easy and free on-street parking.  As stated in many previous posts, there are communities far larger that have no such bookstore.  Customers include many local residents, people from surrounding communities, and some tourists.  The store offers both new and used books all of which are extremely well-organized and easy to find.  Some indies with used books do not have them on computer inventory but that's not true here.  They know exactly what they have on the shelves.  The store has a great book buy-back program offering store credits.  They're also fortunate that many of their used books have been donated.  The demand for literature and poetry has grown and those sections have expanded accordingly (or should I say, accordionly? you know expanding like an accordion?) (I digress, just roll your eyes and tell me to move on).  There is also a good stock of sci-fi, westerns, and children's books.  There are a good variety of sidelines with the Melissa and Doug's children lines and greeting cards being the best sellers.  Susan, the owner, told me that these items and other sidelines, along with the used books, are critical to the survival of her business.

The secret here is really no secret at all.  The Book Shoppe Inc. shares many characteristics of other successful indies with the best one probably being excellent customer service.  After you meet Susan and Bonnie, a volunteer staffer, you'll understand what I mean.  Bookstore owners don't get many days off, as most of you know.  On the day of my visit Bonnie was in charge but she called Susan to come in and meet me even though it was her day off.  That's what I call excellent customer service!  I love the big indies I've visited, like Powell's for example, but I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have happened there.

The store is limited for author events due to space and accessibility for seniors.  If anyone can figure out a way to work it out, it will be Susan.  Even with this limitation, independent bookstore business is on an upswing and she's encouraged by the trend she sees here at her store and with indies in general, a sentiment shared by others I visit.

Part of visiting bookstores is for the experience.  I had a great experience here with Susan and Bonnie and enjoyed browsing the several aisles of books.  Cat lovers will enjoy the benefit of two beautiful cats and if you're lucky, you might even get to see the bookstore dog.  But no matter how you slice it, you'll enjoy a wonderful visit to a successful independent bookstore.  Don't miss out.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens.  Outstanding.  Probably one of the best books I've read in the last several months.  Fiction about a college student who needs to interview a senior citizen for a writing project but it becomes way more than a class project.  Highly recommended and I think this will appeal to all readers.

CURRENTLY READING:  Life After Life, Kate Atkinson.  Dog Songs, Mary Oliver.  I rarely read two at once but Dog Songs is an easy one.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Ranger's Apprentice, Book One: The Ruins Of Gorlan, John Flanagan.  The Boob Girls, Joy Johnson.

Front window display.  

You can start browsing books and the great prices before you even enter the store!

View of the store from the front entrance.  

Some of the sidelines for kids to the right of the entrance.  Kids are going to have a great time in this store.  

This section of books for children, near the front of the store.  

Melissa & Doug items are a huge seller here.  

Just a few of the greeting cards you can find here.  

A great place to sit and try out a book.  

A portion of the children's section in the back of the store.  

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

One of several book aisles.  

No, you are not seeing double.  When I first saw these cats I thought it was just one walking by a mirror.  There really are two and they look alike.  

A variety of state and regional interests.  

Because Amazon doesn't have bathrooms, you won't see this sign unless you visit an indie!  

With Bonnie and the left and Susan in the center.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Loganberry Books - Shaker Heights, OH

Loganberry Books - Shaker Heights, OH
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I told Harriett L., the founder and owner of Loganberry Books, that I didn't know if my pictures could do her store justice.  Everything from the incredible book mural on the side of the building to the classic look inside.  The look inside is of an old, stately, established (it is!), bookstore.  It has a kind of old library feel to it with the floor to ceiling bookshelves, many of which hold old collectable editions in leather-bound covers.  Or maybe picture Mr. Penumbra's bookstore or the Sempere and Son Bookstore in The Shadow Of The Wind.  No matter how you picture it, this is one hearty bookstore with some girth to it and it delivers in every way.

This one-level bookstore (oh, what a level!) is located in suburban Cleveland in the Larchmere neighborhood.  The outside front of the bookstore is nice but very deceptive.  This store is expansive with multiple large rooms, all absolutely packed with books.  They have no storage area so they use all available space in all rooms.  My jaw dropped when I entered and saw walled bookshelves on both sides of the front room, very impressive.  The store offers new, used, and collectable books and these collectables are one of the store's strengths including out-of-print books, children's books, rare books, early classics, and much more.  If you're a collector, you absolutely must visit this store.  But ordinary book lovers will not be disappointed.  The inventory is quite voluminous and it will be challenging to get out of here without getting more than just a few books.  There are some sidelines here, including an extensive offering of greeting cards that sell quite well.  During the winter months, they alter a portion of the store to include more sidelines than usual in order to help the business.  The store is quite active with author events held on-site.  They also have live music weekly as well as an open mic night, all great ways to bring people into the store.

And then there's Otis.  Man, this cat must have super powers because I heard a lot about him and could sense his presence everywhere.  Unfortunately, the day of my visit was his day off so I cannot truly confirm his existence.  However, I did see the scratchy-pole thingy, his water dish, his bed, and a couple of toys.  He also has his own picture on his business card and sells his likeness on magnets.

Harriett and her staff were all wonderfully nice to talk to and tell me about the store.  She started this business 20 years ago so I think that's a good sign for this indie and the fortunate people in the community as it moves toward the future.  If you live anywhere near the Cleveland area and haven't been here yet, it's time to change that.  Get to this terrific indie and enjoy a great bookstore experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  A Stranger In My Own Country, Hans Fallada.  Prison diary written by this great German author while being held in prison in 1944.  Written at great risk and very outspoken against the Third Reich.  Many of the great German authors of those times fled the country, Fallada stayed.  He is an incredible story by himself, but this book won't be for everybody.  If you want to read one of his best books and one of my favorites, start with Every Man Dies Alone.  Then try this one.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  84, Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff.

This beautiful mural of books is on the side of the building located in the area known as Author's Alley.  

A great front window display and a couple of places to sit and browse a book.  

View from the front entrance looking toward the rear of the store which isn't even in view.  Conscientious readers may notice the celebrity on the left sprinting into the store.  Yes, that's my mom.   

Floor to ceiling bookshelves.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  I think these bookshelves are beautiful.  

Another view.  

A great place to sit and try some books, near the front of the store.  

You'll find lots of children's books here.  

A little chair for a little person.  

A fraction of the vintage books.  

These are only a few of the greeting cards you can find here.  

If you have a vintage book in need of repair, bring it here.  They can help.  

Another one of the rooms in the store.  They also have open mic events in this room.  

There are many great places you can sit and read.  

Floor to ceiling bookshelves.  It is like this in every room of the store.  

You can find lots of bargains here.  

Music people could use a set of these.  Where were these when I was in grad school?!

A view from the rear of the store looking toward the front, as best as I could.  

Serious book collectors need to visit this store and visit this room.   Seriously.   

You'll find lots of book art here too.  

Edgar Allen Poe collectors, here you go.  

You will find vintage and collectable books everywhere in this store.  

A bookstore with live music.  What could be better?!

With Harriett, the fine owner of Loganberry Books.  Thanks for a great visit.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Learned Owl Bookshop - Hudson, OH

The Learned Owl Bookshop - Hudson, OH
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There are a handful of bookstores I've been to that can only be described with one word and in one way.  Charming.  I try to find other words but my limitations in communicative writing hold me back.  Located on the main street of a town between Cleveland and Akron and housed in a historical building over 150 years old, this place was a shoe repair shop way back in the day.  Add a perfectly congenial owner and a friendly staff to the mix and this place is totally charming and delightful.  A comfortable bookstore in every way.

The Learned Owl is a 3-level bookstore with a main level, a 2nd floor, and a basement.  The store offers new books including recent releases and bestsellers.  They have some sidelines but the store business is dominated by books.  Of the sidelines, greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, and calendars are the best sellers. The store hosts frequent author events, holding the smaller "meet and greet" events in the store.  For larger crowds, they have options around town including the local library.

On the week day of my visit, this place was hopping with business.  Despite that, Kate S., the owner, and Elizabeth, one of the booksellers, were fantastic to talk to and were patient to visit with me.  Kate has all the enthusiasm anyone would enjoy seeing in a bookstore owner and I felt welcomed the minute I walked in.  The store has been in business for 47 years and Kate has been in charge now for 4 years.  The longevity of this store can not only be attributed to a strong local customer base, but GENERATIONS of local customers.  After 47 years, this place is established and the roots run deep in the community.  Kate's ties to a nearby town have helped to draw additional business and they also get some traffic from a local private prep school, Western Case Academy.  The store also has a great partnership with many of the local public schools, especially the middle schools, and has many of their required books stocked here for purchase.

Some of you, however, will have one disappointment when you visit here.  Cat lovers, I'm sorry to tell you that there are no cats here.  Dog lovers, rejoice.  Lily is an energetic rescue dog just learning the ropes at this indie.  Luckily for her, she has a wonderful owner and a super bookstore to hang out in!  Readers, this place is a 5-star gem, don't miss it.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  A Stranger In My Own Country, Hans Fallada.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain.  The Borrower, Rebecca Makkai.  The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales, Brothers Grimm, Arthur Rackham, illustrator.

The historical home of The Learned Owl.  

One of the front window displays.  

This building has been here awhile.  

Looking through the store after entering the front door.  

Looking to the right from the front door.  

Looking to the left from the front door.  

Great display featuring staff picks and author events books.  

Need something for the kids this summer?  You'll find options here.  

Current bestsellers displayed and available.  

This is Lily.  For me, she could either be shy or constantly moving, either of which makes it hard to get a good picture!  

A great incentive.  

My kind of chair to try out a book.  

Since you're getting a book as a gift you better get a greeting card to go with it.  

This room is next to the main entrance.  

A portion of the children's section.  

A nice display of books featured on NPR.  

Books available here for required readings by students.  

Some of the sidelines.  

View of the main floor from the back of the store looking toward the front.  

Upstairs you go!  

One of the upstairs rooms.  

Another great place to sit and check out a book.  

Pick up an audio book for your long road trips.  ( I really should listen to my own advice on this!)  

More books in this area of  the basement.  

With Kate, the fine owner at The Learned Owl.  Thanks for a great visit.