Tuesday, September 27, 2016

192 Books - New York, NY

192 Books - New York, NY
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This started out to be another usual bookstore visit, fun and exciting as all my others.  192 Books is a small, intimate, one-level store so it was very easy to talk to Todd C., the store manager, and Haley, one of the staffers.  Then I find out that Todd is originally from Iowa and did his undergrad at the University of Iowa, same as me.  That conversation could've easily filled my time during this visit but then Todd asked, "So what's going on with the presidential election and the polls in Iowa?" Oy vey.  Where to begin?!  Probably not your typical customer/bookstore manager chat but what a great time I had.  But enough of that, you need to hear about this great store!

This indie has been around for almost 13 years, located in the Chelsea community of Manhattan.  I think any bookstore in Manhattan has a great location and the same is true for 192.  This area is a hub of cultural activity and events.  Art galleries are thick and the Chelsea Market is very close.  The co-owners, Paula and Jack, are a perfect blend of the art world (Paula has her own gallery) and the literary world, respectively.  Books related to the art world are one of the strengths here along with poetry, translations, and children's.  It was fun to browse the fiction shelves as I saw a lot of authors and books that I was unfamiliar with.  In some ways, this store reminded me of a mini City Lights in San Francisco.  A very literary inventory and no sidelines.  This place is all about the books and Todd shared with me that business is going quite well.  It also helps this business that Paula and Jack own the building, a considerable savings for the business that any indie would welcome.  

Customers to this store come from all over the world including famous people in the art world.  Like other successful indies though, it also has a lot of devoted local customers.  But when your store is located in NYC, you have a high density population to draw customers from.  Author events are frequent, held right in the store or at a nearby gallery for larger events.  To get to this store, I would strongly encourage you to use public transportation and then walk.  You would be insane to try and drive a car here.

I didn't meet Paula or Jack, but boy do they have great people here.  When you visit you'll have a terrific time talking to Todd or Haley and if you're from Iowa, be prepared for a great visit with Todd and some great book recommendations.  Just the thing you're looking for at any bookstore visit.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Jaquar's Children, John Vaillant.  Either there is more literature about the plight of immigrants trying to cross the southern border or I'm just finding lots of it.  For those of you removed from our immigration issues, this book will be an inside look to the atrocities that are happening.  Even though this is fiction, it is not far-fetched.  A group of Mexicans are smuggled across the border at great financial expense for their passage.  They are transported in a sealed water tanker and then abandoned in the desert.  The story is interspersed with the main character's reminiscence of days past and his current struggle to survive with the others.  Do they survive?  Read it to find out.  Not everyone will like this and for some it might be too disjunct.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Seinfeldia, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Heart, Maylis De Kerangal.

Another exterior view.  Lots of reflection on the beautiful day of my visit so you can also see the other side of the street.  

One of the front window displays (and more reflection of the other side of the street!).  

Another exterior shot.  

Lots of author events.  

View looking into the store and slightly to the left from the front entrance.  

Take my word for it, there are more than 192 books here!

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Nice display of books including some award winners.  

The children's area.  

Keep your eyes open for more than books in this store.  You'll see some interesting art work as well.  

Another overview of the store.  

In NYC people are good at using space.  This is a front table book display with folding chairs stored underneath the table for in-store author events.  

A great overview of the store from the check-out counter.  

I love the ceilings in these old buildings that house bookstores.  

With Todd on the left, the fine store manager at 192 Books.  Thanks for a great visit.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Bunch Of Grapes - Vineyard Haven, MA

Bunch Of Grapes - Vineyard Haven, MA
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I really like the name of this bookstore, Bunch Of Grapes.  But it's a little misleading.  I looked all over the place and didn't see any bunches of grapes anywhere.  What I did see was bunches of books, bunches of cards, bunches of games, and bunches of really cool birdhouses made out of books.  But on the day of my visit, the best name for this place would be Bunches Of Customers!  What a great thing for any indie!

Bunches Of Grapes has been around since 1972 and Dawn B., the current owner and 2nd ownership of the business has been here 8 years.  The store is open year round but for the most part is a seasonal bookstore relying heavily on tourists.  Dawn told me that July and August are the months when they make their money which sustains them through the year when business slows.  It was evident on the day of my visit because the customers were thick.  Dawn also shared with me something that has become very apparent to me on this journey of independent bookstores.  She's never known a business where everyone is so willing to share ideas, a willingness to collaborate and support other bookstore owners and their stores.  Another reason that bookstore people are the best.  

This one-level store is spacious with lots of room to browse without feeling crowded by shelves.  It has a great location on Main St. of Vineyard Haven which is on Martha's Vineyard.  I took the ferry from Hyannis to get here but you can also take a ferry from Falmouth.  The store offers all new books and current events, history, and literary fiction are three of the better selling genres.  There are lots of sidelines including puzzles, games, and greeting cards.  One of my favorites here were the bird houses made out of books.  The store is also known for its events held on-site or with options off-site for larger crowds.  

My experience here was terrific thanks to people like Dawn, Molly, Karen and other staffers.  Just like all my visits, they were the best.  Dawn told me that the foundation for success was set by one of the original co-owners, Ann, and I know that other customers as well as myself are grateful for her contribution and the store's continued success.

So take a vacation and sight-seeing tour to Martha's Vineyard.  Once on the island, hook a ride or grab a rental bike to Vineyard Haven and enjoy a trip to the same bookstore that President Obama visits when he's here.  You'll enjoy the quaintness of the store and the niceness of the people.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell.  Didn't.  It is compared to some of Dan Brown's books but I just couldn't do it.  It got bogged down in church and vatican history for me.  BUT, as I always say, there are many who absolutely love this one.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Jaguar's Children, John Valliant.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Mayumi And The Sea Of Happiness, Jennifer Tseng.  

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:  My recent New England tour wouldn't have been possible without The Indie Bob Spot team of Cheryl M., Graphic Design and Travel Logistics; and Fran M., Tech Advisory.  They always see things that I miss and I'm always glad when they're on one of the tours.

On your way to Martha's Vineyard you'll have to take a ferry and endure scenery like this.  

Another exterior view of the store.   There is a nice plaza-like area in front of the entrance where you can sit and enjoy the day or the book you just bought.  

Another exterior view and the front entrance.  

Unfortunately, the reflection doesn't allow you to see the display window very well but you can see the nice flowers in front.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  

Just a few of the greeting cards you'll find.  These are near the front entrance.  

An extensive section of books of local interest.  

I love seeing a long wall of fiction.  

The new year is sneaking up, check out their calendars.  

A portion of the children's section.  

Another view looking toward the children's section.  The kids might want to check out those hand puppets in the foreground.  

More sidelines including puzzles.  

The options for kids here are endless.  

Just a few of the games here.  

You probably won't find extensive maritime sections at midwest bookstores.  

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

Find your Kurt Vonnegut candles here.  

A creative way to keep your place in your book and read one-handed.  

A nice staff picks display.  

Bird houses made out of books, one of the most creative sidelines I've seen.  

A relevant notice for all independent bookstores.  

With Dawn B. on the left, the fine owner at Bunch Of Grapes.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Nantucket Bookworks - Nantucket, MA

Nantucket Bookworks - Nantucket, MA
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One small island, two independent bookstores.  What the?  How?  Huh?  Tourists, people, tourists.  Nantucket Island is awash in tourism but most come to visit the stores, the museums, and the history.  Me?  I go for the independent bookstores!  Nantucket Bookworks and Mitchell's Book Corner are sister bookstores, both owned and managed by Wendy H. and collectively fall under the business name of Nantucket Book Partners.  They even share employees with the booksellers sometimes working at either store.  If you're a book or bookstore person visiting Nantucket it is easy to visit both stores (and you should).  The only thing separating the two is a 5 minute walk.

In bookstore years, both indies have been around a long time.  Nantucket Bookworks began in 1972 and moved to its current location in 1981.  Like communities all over the country, when it was time to move to the new location, volunteers came to the rescue and helped move the inventory.  This is the way it is with treasured indies in every commuinity around the country.

Nantucket Bookworks is a one-level store that offers all new books and a terrific variety of sidelines.  Of the two indies on the island, this one has more sidelines to shop for, especially for the kids.  This store also has a little more to offer in its children's section.  Like Mitchell's, you'll find a great section of books related to Nantucket and the Cape Cod area.  I think the two stores compliment each other quite nicely.  Remember, when visiting here you'll be taking a ferry to the island (do not take your car to the island) so plan accordingly.

With renowned author, Elin Hildebrand.  Thanks for a great visit.  
The norm for the people I meet in bookstores is that they're the best.  Just like Mitchell's, the people at Bookworks were a blast to visit with and to meet.  I didn't get to meet Wendy on this trip but I met Dick and Grace who both told me a lot about the store and its history.  I also met Elin Hildebrand, the author who wrote the essay about Nantucket Bookworks for My Bookstore, by Ron Rice.  Regular readers know this is a rarity for me; it only happened once before.  The meeting was extra special since she attended the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop.  How lucky I am to meet people like this along my journey!  And if you're an Elin Hildebrand fan and visit Nantucket, ask at Nantucket Bookworks about her and she just might come in and sign a book.  

While your friends and family are enjoying the seafood, the ice cream, and all those unique shops, make your break.  Sneak away and experience one of the islands' wonderful bookstores.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Murder At The Roosevelt Hotel In Cedar Rapids, Diane Fannon-Langton.  True crime story of a murder at the Roosevelt Hotel in 1948.  Was it revenge?  Accidental?  Self-inflicted?  This is a short, quick read and if you like true crime you'll enjoy this.  Lots of pictures from the local paper included.  And if you live in eastern Iowa, you will especially enjoy this one.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Castaways, Elin Hildebrand.

Another exterior view.  

One of the display windows.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Lots of sidelines.  

Display of new releases.  

Presidential candidate sidelines.  

Lots of great backpacks and bags.  

A portion of the books of local interest.  

A portion of the children's section.  

Another view of the children's section.  

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

A few of the greeting cards available.  

Have you read any of these Bookworks bestsellers?

If you want something wrapped, Dick can handle it!

With Grace in the center and Dick on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.