Saturday, October 31, 2015

Quail Ridge Books & Music - Raleigh, NC

Quail Ridge Books & Music - Raleigh, NC
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When I walked into Quail Ridge Books & Music and met the people working this weekday morning I felt like I was immediately drugged.  Regular readers know these visits are a passion and this visit hit an 11 on a scale of 10.  I was truly on a high after I left this place thanks to the enthusiastic welcome from Helen, the floor manager; Sarah, the general manager; Bill, a bookseller; and Linda, children's department.  For those of you who are regular customers at Quail Ridge, how do you come into this store and not just stay for, oh like, a week?!  All of these people are 5-star and that's a perfect fit since they work at a 5-star bookstore.

Quail Ridge Books & Music is one of the indies featured in Ron Rice's, My Bookstore, and it's easy to see why.  This is a very large and expansive, one-level store that offers a little bit of everything.  The breadth of inventory here reminds somewhat of The Booksellers At Laurelwood in Memphis, as well as a large chain bookstore, and I mean that in the most complimentary of terms.  There are lots of sidelines here to go along with an excellent book inventory.  Helen told me that the sidelines are important, as they are for many indies.  There are lots of greeting cards to choose from which is one of their best sidelines offered.  The music part of Quail Ridge Books & Music includes a great selection of classical and jazz CDs as well as holiday CDs.  Some indies now offer music on vinyl and this is something they are considering here at Quail Ridge.  The store is very active with author events and signings.  Most of these are held on-site but they have options off-site with larger venues as they were doing with Robert Reich who was appearing on the evening of my visit.

Helen told me that Quail Ridge has a very strong local customer base and I can see why.  They've been around 31 years and in the present location for about 20.  This is all well and good but it starts with the booksellers and staff in the store.  The success of Quail Ridge lies here.  My one regret is that I didn't get to meet more of the staff.  If they're all like the four I met I probably would've passed out on an overdose of southern hospitality!

If I ever start handing out awards for bookstore bathrooms, this one will be in the running.  
What else?  Well don't miss the bathroom.  You'll forget what you went in there for.  It's like being in a museum.  The walls are covered with framed pictures of authors who've visited Quail Ridge.  They'll all be watching you.  This might take some getting used to, just ask Bill.  You won't get this experience on Amazon.  Don't miss this terrific indie and the rock stars who work there.  You won't want to leave.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Sisters Brothers, Patrick DeWitt.  Two brothers in the 1850s are hired to murder a guy.  They travel from Oregon City to San Francisco and there are adventures along the way. An odd western.  It was ok.

CURRENTLY READING:  I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes.  This book is chilling.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Not purchased but gifted, Andy & Don, Daniel de Visé.  Thanks for the advanced readers copy.  I'm a huge Mayberry fan so I'm looking forward to this one.

Front window and a book display before you even enter the store.  

Another view of the store front.  

Looking through the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Authors who will be visiting Quail Ridge and their books prominently displayed

A nice declaration and of course something my teacher friends can relate to.  

The store has an extensive selection of greeting cards.  These are only a few.  

A nice display of recent popular releases.  

You'll find lots of staff picks displayed.  

A creative display of award-winning books.  

Look who's coming!

An attractive display relevant to the season.  

Lots of CDs to choose from, especially for classical music lovers.  

A great place to sit and try out a book.  

A display of boxed sets of greeting cards.  

A large area of magazines offered.  

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

This is the area where many of the author events are held.  Lots of room for this.  

A portion of the children's section.  

Can't make it to the store?  Order your book the new-fashioned way.  

I always see some of the most unique socks in independent bookstores.  

With Sarah on the left and Helen on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Roscoe Books - Chicago, IL

Roscoe Books - Chicago, IL
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If ever I was given a second life and another go around at this gig, I found the place to do it.  I would live in Chicago, in Roscoe Village.  I would own a bookstore and live four blocks away so I could walk to work.  I'm always stumbling across Chicago neighborhoods I've never been to and this is one of them.  Up until 11 months ago there was only one thing missing.  Problem solved.  The independent bookstore is in place and the neighborhood is complete.

I can't say enough about the job Erika, the owner, and Emily, the manager, are doing here.  Erika's background is not in business but she's done her homework and is learning all the time.  Located in an upscale neighborhood with lots of young families and small children, she made the choice to deliver a strong children's section.  That seems like a direct bull's-eye at the customer base which has enabled Roscoe Books to exceed expectations in their first year.  But don't be fooled by the focus on the children's section.  The adult fiction and non-fiction offerings are outstanding, with most of the inventory shelved being recent publications.  Roscoe Books is finding that their location has been a positive and hard back fiction has sold well here.  Everything is organized logically and neatly arranged in a beautiful one-level space.  The displays were attractive and some of the best I've seen.  Erika and her staff have done some great work with this space.

The store offers some sidelines including journals and children's items.  Their greeting cards are very unique and you won't be able to find them just anywhere.  They're still getting their feet on the ground here and have only had a few author events but I expect that will change in time as more publicists and authors find out how nice this new indie is.

But the best part of this visit is the best part of just about all my visits, the nice people I get to meet and talk to.  Erika may be considered a rookie bookstore owner but she's a veteran in every other way and has everything she needs to make this store successful and your visit enjoyable.  She's friendly, conversant, and knowledgeable, characteristics I find with all the good owners and booksellers I meet.

The traffic in this neighborhood seems minimal so you could certainly drive here.  I chose mass transit and it is only a few blocks walk from the brown line Addison or Paulina stations.  Either way, the store is very accessible.  But the lucky people who live in Roscoe Village can just walk here.  Before this indie opened, Roscoe Village was simply a nice neighborhood.  But now?  It just became hip and cozy thanks to an independent bookstore.  Check this place out for a great bookstore experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes.  This one isn't for the faint of heart.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  In Wilderness, Diane Thomas.

Another exterior view and the nice window display.  

Already doing what good indies do by engaging community outreach.  Bravo Roscoe Books!

View looking through the store from the front entrance.  Unfortunately, this picture doesn't do it justice.  

An attractive display near the entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

A display of staff selections.  Staff selections can also be found throughout the store.  

The store features some unique greeting cards, here are a few of them.  

A timely display for the month of October.  

I always like finding great places to sit in a bookstore.  

Pick up a journal in case you want to write about visiting bookstores.  

See what the middle grade book club is reading and what they're saying.  

Back in the children's section you can pick up a onesie to go with the book.  

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

Another view from the back of the store.  

A partial view of the children's section and its entrance.  

With Emily on the left and Erika in the center.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Book Bin - Northbrook, IL

The Book Bin - Northbrook, IL
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How long has The Book Bin been around?  Let me put it this way.  If Book Bin were a dog it would be 308 years old.  But in terms of independent bookstore years, that ratio should be higher than 7:1.  When The Book Bin started back in 1971, the internet, e-readers, Amazon, and chain book stores were nowhere to be found.  It has survived all these challenges to the business as well as numerous other hurdles.  Yet, here it is not only surviving, but thriving in a wonderful northern Chicago suburb.  A great tradition with a great future.

I was hoping to meet Janis or Lex, the long-time owners of The Book Bin, on my visit.  But as it turns out, they are no longer the owners as of last week.  The new owner is Alli M. and although her position as owner is new, her presence at The Book Bin is not.  She started working here when she was 16 and now has been here 20+ years.  In my opinion, this will allow the store to have a very smooth transition for the staff and the community.

The store has been located in the same Northbrook Plaza shopping area since 1971, but located in its current space of the plaza since about 2000.  Even though this is a shopping area, it feels like a neighborhood bookstore since it is surrounded by residential.  There are some sidelines in this one-level store including reading glasses, greeting cards, and lots of great stuff for kids.  The success of this store is due to a strongly loyal, local customer base as well as a staff of booksellers who are customer friendly and provide outstanding service.  These are trademarks of the successful indies I've visited.  They also enjoy a good relationship with some of the local schools and are able to fill some of their large book orders, a good plus for the store.  But one of my favorite things here?  Free parking close to the store!  Oh thank you, Book Bin!

I had a great visit with Nancy (Janis's daughter) and Meg, as well as Alli who was so gracious to visit with me during a very busy morning.  I got a good vibe from these 3 about the future of independent bookstores and the future of The Book Bin.  Seriously, an independent that has been around for 44+ years deserves every bit of recognition it can get.  What a great achievement!  Do your part to recognize this fine indie by paying it a visit.  You'll come away just as impressed as I was.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  My Real Children, Jo Walton.  An elderly lady with some dementia is recalling two lives lived, one with a lousy husband and four children, another with a lesbian partner and three children.  A unique story with a dual reality.  I liked this and recommend it.

CURRENTLY READING:  I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes (Boy, this one really butted in line in front of all those waiting in the pile!).

A nice front window display and a little bench for little readers.  

View looking straight through the store from the front entrance.  

An appropriate display for the upcoming Halloween season.  

Look for this area if you're on a budget.  

The Cubs are kind of a big deal this year.  I love this display.  

I haven't noticed this item in other stores yet.  Pillows for your book when you're stretched out reading.  I think this is a great sideline.  

A nice place to sit and try out a new book.  This is near the front of the store.  

An attractive display of recent releases with reduced prices.  

Lots of good sidelines here for kids.  

A few more of the sidelines.  

There are some good Melissa & Doug items here.  

When you're ready to make your purchase, look for this area.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

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

Some unique items that you'll need as the temperature drops.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

With Alli on the left and Nancy on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.