Friday, April 28, 2017

Francie & Finch Bookshop - Lincoln, NE

Francie & Finch Bookshop, Lincoln, NE
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

I had a very strong first impression of Francie & Finch as I came up to this store.  As I looked at the black metal sign attached to a historical building that was constructed in the1800s, my impression took root.  The entrance was bordered on each side by classic window displays.  Inside the bookstore was a high-ceilinged space with walls of books and very cool art work by local artists.  This place is hip with a capital "H" and that's what I felt here.  In fact, if you could perform a "bookstore-ectomy," extracting the store and building, you could pop it down in Brooklyn, Boston, or Chicago and never tell the difference.  It would fit in anywhere, but "hip" is here in the heartland, newly opened for just a few months, and off to a great start.  Congratulations Francie & Finch and congratulations Lincoln.  

So Francie & Finch is one of the new members of the independent bookstore family and so far so good according to the owner Leslie H.  The store is a one-level space, very neatly arranged and offers all new books with a few sidelines.  The locally made leather journals were especially attractive and they're selling quite well along with the greeting cards.  They enjoy having various groups meet in the store including a journal club, writer's workshop, and poetry workshop, just to name a few.  There is a very nice children's section that hosts story time events and this section is the pride of Leslie's 8-year old granddaughter who is serious about helping out and running that part of the store.

I think the store is ideally located in downtown Lincoln, in near proximity to a large Marriott, The Lied Center for Performing Arts, lots of downtown urban housing, and many businesses.  It seems like there are customers everywhere and all are very close and easily within walking distance.  And this doesn't even take into account the large community of people associated with the University of Nebraska.  I especially like the art work featured in the store, any of which can be purchased.  The art work is displayed on a rotating schedule so if you see something you like, get it!

Leslie and Tony, one of the booksellers, were so nice to welcome me and tell me about the store.  Leslie took a leap of faith to open Francie & Finch, leaving her career in the travel industry to start the bookstore.  I've met many owners who've left a career unrelated to books or retail and followed this dream.  Kudos to you, Leslie.  Congratulations on the beginning of a wonderful journey.  Check this place out if you're in Lincoln.  You'll have a great experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Case Of The Missing Books, Ian Sansom.  Very British comedy about a librarian who goes to Ireland to take over a library.  It turns out to be a mobile library, a junk heap, but the problem is the 15,000 missing books.  Everyone in this town is a nitwit and the story is utterly absurd at times.  I would love to see this adapted to the stage, it would be hilarious.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Gateway To Freedom, Eric Foner.    

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Black Elk Speaks, John G. Neihardt.

One of the two front display windows.  

Looking straight up this beautiful building just outside the entrance.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  

A nice table display of popular books to the left of the front entrance.  

Looking for original and local artwork?  You'll find it throughout the store.  

Thankfully, my broken "readers" can usually be replaced since many indies carry them.  

Wonderful display of worthy hardcovers.  

I thought this displayed art work was fantastic.  

Take your time and try out a book.  

You should buy a work of art to go with your book and greeting card.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  I especially like the one on the top left.  

TWO seats to sit with a friend and try out books.  

Music on vinyl is returning.  Look for this bin in the store.  

A portion of the children's section.  

Washable, rip proof, and chew proof baby books.  I wish some of the adult books came like this!  

View looking toward the front entrance from the back of the store.  Serendipitous readers might recognize the celebrity in the left background.  Yes, that's my mom.  

A few of the biographies displayed.  

ALWAYS ask your independent bookstore about gift certificates.  

You can find some uniquely made leather journals here.  Look for this display.  

With Tony on the left and Leslie in the middle.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Main Street Books - Norfolk, NE

Main Street Books, Norfolk, NE
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Main Street Books is the perfect example of what I'm witnessing as I travel across the country, a renaissance for independent bookstores.  My visit here coincided with the one-year anniversary of its opening.  As Chad J., the owner, told me, they wanted to open this bookstore quickly (before anyone else got the idea) to fill a void left by the recent closing of a music and book store.  From my observations, it appears to be a perfect fit for this community in just about every way.  Location, accessibility, inventory, and customer relations and service all add up to provide a wonderful bookstore and experience.  

Main Street Books has a great location right on the main street (of course!) through town.  The nice thing about this location besides high visibility is a reasonable lease and no other bookstore within two hours.  The long, narrow, one-level space offers new and used books as well as a small number of sidelines.  They've recently added a line of items by Melissa and Doug, very popular with children and something I've seen available in other indies.  Additionally, they offer some great works of art by several different local artists, a great way to bring more people to the store.  As for books, the store has about a 50/50 split with new and used books.  They offer store credit to customers in exchange for their used books that are in good condition.  Since this store is so new, they're still learning how to engage events and book signings.  An upcoming event is a wine-tasting event that will be held in the store in cooperation with another business.  I think wine and books is a win-win for everyone!

This store is the true definition of a family business.  In addition to Chad, I met his wife, Bonnell, his son Calvin, and his mother Barb.  Heck, I practically felt like the long lost cousin joyfully welcomed back to a family reunion!  But as regular readers know, this is the norm when you visit the terrific people who work at independent bookstores.

Being open for just a year, things are going reasonably well but they can always be better.  Believe it or not, there are some people in the Norfolk area who don't know about this store yet.  To you people, I politely say, WAKE UP!  It's time to support and patronize a business that many other communities aren't as fortunate to have.  This is a hidden gem in your midst.  I can say with confidence that you will find a book here that will suit your interests or one you can get as a gift for a friend.  Lots of great books cared for by some of the nicest people to tell you about them.  Enjoy a visit to a bookstore that is an emerging star in northeast Nebraska.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  A Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable.  Fiction based on the true story of an apartment that was sealed since WWII and the priceless artifacts found within as well as journals kept by the original occupant.  The story goes back and forth between 1900 Paris and present-time Paris when the apartment's contents are assessed for auction and the controversy's that develop.  I found the historical part of this story fascinating.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  The Case Of The Missing Books, Ian Sansom.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  On Wings Of Eagles, Ken Follett.    

A cheery Spring season front window display.  

Another front window display.  No season like the present to find a great book here.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Devoted readers may recognize the illusive celebrity in the foreground.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

You can find some great bargains in this used book section, just to the right after entering the store.  Used books are also shelved throughout the store along with the new ones.  

A nice display of recent popular books.  

And you don't even have to leave Norfolk!  

Local artists are featured throughout the store, like the paintings along this wall.  All are available for purchase. 

The art work is represented in different mediums.  

I don't know if I've seen homemade coosies anywhere!

Lots of reason to visit this store, any day of the week!  

A portion of the books of local interest and local authors.  

A very comfortable place to sample a book.  

A portion of the attractive children's section.  

These are just some of the new Melissa & Doug line of items available in the store.  

What 8-year old wouldn't want this?!!

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

An assortment of puzzle books.  

This is one of my favorite things at Main Street Books and I haven't seen anything like it in any of my visits.  Come to the store on Wednesdays, make a purchase, and spin the wheel for a chance at an additional discount.  Fantastic idea and promotion!  

Of course!

I thought this was really cool.  I call it a hamburger rock, created by a local artist and available here.  

Other than the tall guy in the back, this is the Main Street all-star team.  In front, Barb on the left and Calvin on the right.  In back, Bonnell on the left and Chad on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Midtown Reader - Tallahassee, FL

Midtown Reader, Tallahassee, FL
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Over the course of my journey, I've met many bookstore owners who came to their profession and ownership from an entirely different world.  That's true for Sally B., the owner at Midtown Reader in Tallahassee.  I didn't meet Sally on the day of my visit but I did meet four of her wonderful booksellers, Elise, Darrell, Amanda, and Shelby who not only heartily endorsed Sally as the owner but also told me a bit about her story.  After a lengthy career as a spokesperson for a presidential candidate, she said enough of this, I'm going to open a bookstore.  And from my observations, it is a positive move for all involved.  A town that has had a void for 30+ years, a state capital no less, now has a welcome addition to the community of a new, general fiction bookstore.  I feel like I'm finding new bookstores more and more along my journey, very encouraging for the industry, our culture, and our heritage.

Midtown Reader is truly located in the midtown area of Tallahassee which is beginning to show signs of growth and development making this a great location.  They just opened this past November and the timing was perfect helping them to get off to a good start with the holiday season.  The staff is a community of readers with many interests helping to give the store a well-curated inventory.  And even though they're still identifying their customers, they're already seeing regulars.  The store is in a long, narrow space on one level that offers all new books, a few sidelines, a very attractive children's area, and Lucky Goat coffee, a local coffee and one of the best around (at least I know Elise likes it!).

In Midtown Readers' short history it's already doing everything that other successful indies are doing.  Lots of author events, weekly story time for kids that also includes doing a craft, and an electronic newsletter, just to name a few.  I thought the children's section and books of local/Florida interest were especially strong.  You can find staff selections throughout the store in addition to its own display.  But as always, the people were the best.  Shelby, Amanda, Darrell, and Elise were all super as were the several customers I met (shout out to Arthur!).  There is no reason for anyone NOT to visit here.

So now when you visit Tallahassee you'll have more to see than the state capital.  Check out this new member of the independent bookstore family.  You'll love the attractive store and the remarkable and friendly people you'll meet there.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  A Paris Apartment, Michelle Gable.

Another exterior view of the Midtown Reader, right next door to the Izzy Sushi Bar.  

A great patio area in front of the store.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

This is a version of staff picks.  See what the Midtown Reader booksellers are currently reading.  

A nice display of new fiction.  Have you read any of these yet?  

Relevant reading for today.  

Just a few of the books of local interest.  

The white tabs you see on the shelves are "shelf-talkers", they're staff picks.  

A portion of the beautiful children's section.  

A carved-out hideaway in the children's section.  Kids will love this area.  

They're also going to like these!  

Another nice table display.  

A few of the staff picks.  You'll also find them scattered throughout the store.  

Appropriate reading for Spring.  

A great place to try out a book.  

A local favorite, Lucky Goat Coffee, available here.  

The check-out counter, supported by books.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A great perk for the book club.  And heck, you might as well get another book while you're here!  

A few of the sidelines.  

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

The rock stars at Midtown Reader, L-R:  Elise, Darrell, Shelby, me, Amanda.  Thanks for a great visit.