Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Hickory Stick Bookshop - Washington Depot, CT

The Hickory Stick Bookshop - Washington Depot, CT
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Huh?  Hickory Stick?  What the heck kind of name is that for a bookstore?  Maybe it isn't even a bookstore?  Maybe it's a store that just sells hickory walking sticks?  Readers, let me leave no doubts in your minds, this is another in a long line of wonderful bookstores that I'm so lucky to see.  My problem here is that I don't know which is better, the bookstore or all the terrific people associated with it.

Fran K. has been the owner here for 13 years and is the 4th ownership of a bookstore that has been an integral part of this community for 60 years.  I am so impressed with bookstores with this kind of longevity.  To paraphrase what Fran told me, bookstores must continue to renew in order to stay relevant.  How right she is!

The store is a spacious, one-level, two-room business.  It is distinctly and neatly organized with the books in the main room and the gifts, sidelines, and children's department in the other room to the right.  The success and endurance of the store is obviously attributed to an incredible community of regulars as well as frequent tourists.  An active events schedule with all of these held in the store or off-site is also an important factor for the store.

But the people here could not have been nicer.  I felt as welcomed as family by staffers Pat, Emily, Ellen, and Tom as well as Fran and her husband Michael.  Heck, Michael even invited us to his farm to see the other part of their lives!  Everyone was fun to talk to and I could have easily spent the day here.  I hope you can visit this store and buy a book or gift but even if you don't get anything, you will have the best time talking to any of these fine people.  This experience is wonderfully the same at almost any independent bookstore.  Kudos to you, Hickory Stick.

But what about the name of this place?  "Reading, writing, arithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick."  Thanks to the vision of two school teachers, the original owners, we can credit them for this wonderful gift and iconic bookstore that serves the people in the Washington, CT community.  Travelers, on your next trip east, don't miss out on visiting this destination bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.


The main barn at Maple Spring Farm.  
Readers, I've often told you how special bookstore people are.  How is it that I can meet people for a first time and feel a friendship that seems like it began years ago?  After visiting the bookstore, Fran and husband Michael invited us to the farm (their home) where the work and product is organic and sustainability.  Mike is a college professor and extremely knowledgeable and passionate on a farm that includes a flock of sheep that have been in the family for 80+ years.  What do the sheep have to do with the bookstore?  They provide the wool for the organic yarn sold there.  They have hens for eggs.  They have grass-fed beef cows.  They have a wonderful garden and friendly dogs.  I had such a good time visiting their home, Maple Spring Farm, I may ask Michael if I can come back and be his farm helper for a week!
Fran and Michael's fantastic view looking out behind their farm.  
What do these sheep on their farm and the bookstore customers at Hickory Stick have in common?  They both have great care-takers!  

An indescribable and wonderful experience, thanks to my good fortune of visiting and meeting a remarkable bookstore owner.

JUST FINISHED:  Soft In The Head, Marie-Sabine Roger.  Middle-aged and simple man, Germain, befriends elderly and educated Margaurette and they become good friends.  He "adopts" her as her grandmother and she is encouraging and kind-hearted to Germain who had a difficult mother.  Liked it, didn't love it.

CURRENTLY READING:  How About Never - Is Never Good For You?, Bob Mankoff.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Jaguar's Children, John Valiant.  Not purchased, but gifted:  My Farm Friends, Wendell Minor.  Heartland, Dianne Siebert, paintings by Wendell Minor.  Thanks Fran!

Another exterior view.  

Looking to the left in the store from the main entrance.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  Continue into a second room through an entrance you can see on the right of this picture.  

A nice display of staff picks right inside the entrance.  

A great place to sit and try a book.  

I saw these two dogs in the store.  You'll have to decide.  Are they real or fake?  

Enter this room for gifts, stationery, and a children's section, among other things.    

A nice line of Baggalini items offered here.  

An overview of this second room.  

An extensive selection of greeting cards.  

Your little readers are going to enjoy this!  

On a budget?  Find this display!

Looking across the main room.  

Another nice view of the main room.  The entrance is to the right.  

A great section for tourists visiting the store.  
And yes, here are the hickory walking sticks!  
With Fran in the center and Michael on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Bookloft - Great Barrington, MA

The Bookloft - Great Barrington, MA
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Regular readers of The Indie Bob Spot are probably wondering, "Hey, didn't Indie Bob already visit The Bookloft?"  Well, yes I did.   The Book Loft in Columbus, OH.  And now I've visited the totally unrelated Bookloft in Great Barrington, MA.  They both share the distinction of being included in Ron Rice's, My Bookstore, the guide for my journey.  In other words, both are terrific, nationally recognized independent bookstores with a long record of success.

The Bookloft in Great Barrington is located in The Berkshires, a destination in its own right.  This is one of the attractions that brings customers to the store.  The area is popular for tourists and folks with summer homes who come here form NYC and other large urban areas.  Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is also nearby.  It helps the store that it is in a location that is some distance from other bookstores and any large chain Barnes & Noble.  The store has been around since 1974 and like other indies of the same age, it has adapted to the times.  They offer Kobo ereaders here and customers can also buy ebooks off of their website.

The Bookloft is situated in a plaza area among other businesses, a good location to attract customers. And as Mark O., the book buyer, told me, free and easy parking is nothing to sneeze at.  The store has two moderately-sized rooms where you'll find lots of new books, a few used books, and a good variety of sidelines.  Women will enjoy some of the jewelry offerings here and calendars and greeting cards are always good sellers.  As with other indies, the sidelines are an important part of the business.  The store has some great partnerships in the community including providing books for several school districts.  They also partner with local libraries for many of their author events.  When I asked Mark about the resurgence of independent bookstores, he said that's definitely the case at The Bookloft.

Pam T. is the new owner here at the store and I didn't get to meet her but Mark was great to meet and was very patient to visit with me and answer my questions.  People like Mark as well as Lauren and Julia at The Bookloft are the reasons I enjoy these visits so much.

Readers, this region is a beautiful part of the country.  Certainly vacation worthy!  It's nice to know that when you come here to visit, you'll enjoy time well spent at a 5-star gem of a bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Soft In The Head, Marie-Sabine Roger.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Civilwarland In Bad Decline, George Saunders.

There's nothing like getting to browse books outside the store on a beautiful day.  

I love this promo that some bookstores do.  This is a blind date with a book.  Wrapped in plain brown paper, you don't know what you're getting until you buy it!

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  If you go right of this picture, you'll be in the other room of the bookstore.  

Looking through the bookstore's room on the right.  

A variety of magazines near the front entrance.  

Looking through the bookstore's room on the left.  

A nice display of staff picks.  

Some of the jewelry available here.  

A portion of the children's section and some of their staff picks.  

A great place to sit and try out a book.  

Lots of great travel selections.  

Find these shelves for some bargains.  

Bring a friend and hang out here.  

An extensive selection of audio books.  

If you live near Great Barrington I would strongly urge you to do this!  

With Mark on the left, the fine book-buyer at The Bookloft.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Northshire Bookstore - Manchester, VT

Northshire Bookstore - Manchester, VT

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Whatever I share with you in this brief essay won't even begin to cover all the wonderful things about Northshire Bookstore.  Every indie I visit is truly a gift I enjoy on my journey of bookstores; all are special, unique, and in my opinion, almost sacred places.  There are a handful that are simply overwhelming in a very complimentary way.  Northshire falls into that category.  This place is overwhelming in every category you can imagine for an independent bookstore.  Everything from its attractive outside landscaping of various flowers and plants to the quantity and variety of sidelines and a phenomenal children's department on a floor all to itself.  One of the staffers told me what I already knew after 5 minutes in the store.  This place is a destination, no ifs ands or buts about it.  If you're even remotely close to Manchester, VT you are REQUIRED to come here.

Northshire Bookstore will be celebrating 40 years of business this September.  It is the definition of independent and locally owned, founded by current owner Chris M.'s parents, Barbara and Ed.  You'll find new and used books here in a multi-level, large house-like structure located in downtown Manchester.  Naturally, I love the books here but if your friend or family member isn't a book person, bring them to the store with you.  You can find everything from Vermont maple syrup to a turntable for the vinyl music you're going to buy.  Looking for gifts?  The options are endless.  Holiday shopping would be a cinch here.  The store and author events are continually happening.  There is a wonderful cafe in the store with a very spacious dining area.  The children's floor has a large area where kids have access to toys and can play all they want.  Heck, this bookstore even has a loading dock.

But I know the secret here.  A staff that is 2nd to none.  I can tell that customer service and friendliness are valued to the utmost.  People like Courtney, Teresa, Debbie and others are so nice you'll forget why you came into the store.  This is because they've all had a great example set by Chris and his parents.  A great bookstore with great people.  You simply cannot miss out on seeing this store.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  "I Heard You Paint Houses," Charles Brandt.  True crime.  Biography of Frank Sheeran and his rise in organized crime beginning in the 50s through the following decades.  His ascent to become Jimmy Hoffa's right hand man and the definitive answer to Hoffa's disappearance.  Fascinating story even though it was a little tough to keep track of all the names and who was on which side.  Also some revealing ties with the Kennedys.  Soon to be movie.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Soft In The Head, Marie-Sabine Roger.    

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Underground In Berlin, Marie Jalowicz Simon.  Things I Could Actually Get Passed In Congress, Bernie Sanders.

Another exterior view.  The landscaping around the store was beautiful.  

The entrance begins onto the porch, underneath the sign.  

Not even into the store yet and you can shop on the porch on your way to the entrance.  

If you're on a budget, find this display.  

Right inside the entrance you'll find a few collectible editions.  

View looking through the store after entering.  This doesn't even begin to show the multiple rooms on this level.  

If you're a tourist, pick up a postcard and tell your friends back home to visit here!  

An active events schedule with the respective books displayed.  

Lots of magazines near the front entrance.  

There are fantastic book displays throughout the store.  I was so excited I blurred the picture.  

You'll find staff picks all over the store.  

Sidelines here are numerous.  

Another great book display.  

View looking across one of the rooms with lots of sidelines.  

LOTS of cool stuff here.  

Independent bookstores have the most unique sidelines.  When you see guitar-shaped pizza cutters, I advise you to buy.  You'll look long and hard before you find these elsewhere.  

A great place to sit and try out a book.  

If you know someone who is a Dr. Who fan AND enjoys playing Yahtzee, this is a no-brainer.  

The topic of sustainability is an important issue throughout Vermont.  Northshire has a great section for this.  

The store offers new and used books.  This is just a portion of the used book section, on the main level.  

By all means, proceed to another level.  

This level has more books and lots of sidelines.  Go to the right to enter the cafe.  Go up the stairs underneath the Hogwarts sign and you'll be on the children's floor.  

Lots of options in the cafe.  

Yes please!

A spacious seating area for your coffee, pastry, and book.  

Another great book display.  

I've seen Baggalini offered in a few indies and it seems to sell well.  

Lots of greeting cards and other related items.  

You can't find listening stations in many stores anymore. 

Here's that turntable for your vinyl.  

Hey, here's a holiday gift idea.  

There are numerous items here that women will enjoy shopping for.  

Upstairs to the children's section.  

An overview of the children's section.  

Kids are going to love this place.  

If your child needs a little play time, they can hang out here and enjoy the provided toys.  

If you live near Manchester you should be all over this.  

With current owner Chris on the left and founding co-owner, his mother Barbara, on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.