Friday, June 30, 2017

Mystery Lovers Bookshop - Oakmont, PA

Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, PA
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Beware the cats (thankfully for me, hypo-allergenically paper machier or stuffed).  Beware the ravens.  Beware the bathroom.  And beware the books you'll find in Mystery Lovers Bookshop.  There is absolutely no mystery about the fact that there is no "escape" from here without an addition to your own personal library.  The only mystery is how many you can fit under your arm when you leave!

Fittingly, this bookstore opened on Halloween, 27 years ago (I wonder if a romance bookstore would open on Valentine's Day?  I digress).  This one-level space offers mostly new books along with used books.  It's definitely a niche indie with its emphasis on mysteries, crimes, and thrillers.  But if that's not your thing, don't let it deter you from visiting.  You'll also find lots of general fiction including recent releases and best sellers.  And there's a wonderful children's section conveniently located for them near the front of the store.  Trevor and Natalie are the current owners and it was so refreshing (actually, "refreshing" isn't the right word because I'm hearing this from other indies as well) to hear Trevor tell me that things are going very well since they took over the business two years ago.  This was especially encouraging since the stores' business is primarily with the books.  There are very few sidelines here other than some token greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, and a few miscellaneous items for kids.  The store is also active with author events both in the store and off-site depending on the anticipated crowd.

It was my good fortune on the day of my visit to not only meet Trevor, but the original owner, Richard.  Richard had a great vision when he opened the store and early on embraced technology and on-line sales which was a huge part of the store's initial success.  It's thanks to people like Richard and the current owners, Trevor and Natalie, that this store has persevered and survived the challenges that have been placed in front of independent bookstores.  Well done, folks!

I've been to several mystery "niche" bookstores over the course of my journey.  Every single one has been outstanding from the store to the people I've met.  Mystery Lovers is no exception to this and when you visit here you'll enjoy a 5-star store and a 5-star experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Nix, Nathan Johnson.  Story of a child and his mother who are separated when he is 10 years old and never meet again until the child is an adult and the mother has committed a high profile crime.  Bounces back and forth between 1968 and present time.  Also, lots of historical accounts of the 1968 Democratic Convention riots in Chicago.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  A Cold Day In Paradise, Steve Hamilton.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Passenger, Lisa Lutz.  My Dark Places, James Ellroy.

Despite the glare, this is a great front window display.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance and a portion of the children's section.  

New releases display will greet you shortly after entering the store.  

These New Yorker-themed greeting cards are a few of the sidelines.  

A nice display of best sellers and award winners.  

I always like the staff pick displays.  

Pittsburgh has a very active literary community and lecture series.  

Two great places to sit and sample a book.  

Always check out the store events schedule.  

Look for some bargains at the used books display.  

This is another section that isn't found in every indie, books by British authors.  

A few of the books of local interest and by local authors.  

Skeletal remains of customers who merely browsed but didn't purchase.  

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

I like the black and white checkered floor.  Part of the mysterious vibe at Mystery Lovers Bookshop!

A few more of the sidelines, all literary themed.  

You'll find things here you didn't know you needed.  That's one of the attractions of independent bookstores.  

I love the bathroom, something you won't find at Amazon.  The decor is continually changing.    

With Trevor on the right, one of the fine co-owners at Mystery Lovers.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nine Stories Booksellers - Pittsburgh, PA

Nine Stories Booksellers, Pittsburgh, PA
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot Twitter)

Readers, this is the kind of indie that when I walk in the front door I just want to jump up and down and scream.  This indie is a celebration.  Beat the drum, blow your horn, and strike up the band.  I am here to tell you, do not believe the occasional articles about the demise of independent bookstores.  I have seen for myself across the country, there are more openings than closings and there is an enthusiasm at the new stores with their owners.  Nine Stories is the perfect example of this.  Only opened for 8 months now, they are showing positive business growth and doing much better than hanging on for dear life.  This is all thanks to the husband and wife ownership of John and Allyson and their story of perseverance to get to this point.

Before Nine Stories opened, it began as a pop-up with used books being sold from John and Allyson's VW.  After two years of this they took the plunge and opened Nine Stories in the upper Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Their location is well-positioned in an area that is poised to show new business growth.  Now they work from the comfortableness of a brick and mortar offering new and used books.  They offer store credit for used books and are very particular about what they take due to their smaller space.  I thought their used book selection was excellent and very well curated.  They also offer some sidelines like locally made candles, t-shirts of out-of-print books, and totes to name a few.  In 8 short months they've already started a store book club and are continually working to expand their events schedule.  They have a weekly story time for children that more people need to take advantage of.  Bring your child to the story time and then visit Caffè D'amore, connected to the bookstore on the inside and an excellent partnership.  I especially like that the store already offers a customer incentive program.  I think every independent bookstore should have some kind of incentive program for its regular customers.

I had a wonderful time meeting John and talking to him about the store, the business, and all kinds of books.  You need to visit Nine Stories and meet this guy.  He has the kind of youthful enthusiasm you're going to see more of in the new independent bookstores.  Check this one out and you'll see what I'm talking about.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Nix, Nathan Johnson.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Emily, Alone, Stewart O'Nan.  Dead Wake, Erik Larson.

If you need coffee while you browse for books you're set.  You can visit Caffè D'amore right next door and connected on the inside. 

Another exterior view.

Yes, time for summer reading and time to pay a visit to an independent bookstore!

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Attractive table display of recent releases just inside the store.  

Just to the left of the front entrance you'll find a great place to sit and try out a book.  

I love the staff picks display on the wall to the left of the entrance. 

The store has a few sidelines including these candles.  

The store is continuing to engage in events.  Check this board in the store.  

Shinola journals and notebooks, American made in Detroit.  

Shirts and totes with a literary theme.  

You won't find this on Amazon.  

Two great places to sample a book.  

Looking into the Caffè D'amore from the bookstore.  They both have separate exterior entrances and they are also connected on the inside.  A great partnership.  

A portion of the children's items.  

With John on the right, one of the fine co-owners at Nine Stories.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

Classic Lines Books & More - Pittsburgh, PA

Classic Lines Books & More, Pittsburgh, PA
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Duchess on duty at Classic Lines.  
Classic Lines is located on a very busy street of retail businesses in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  It is conveniently next door to the Commonplace Coffee Co., a great fit.  I'm assuming that this neighborhood got its name a few centuries ago when local citizens noticed an abundance of squirrels.  Unfortunately, on my visit I saw no signs of squirrels.   But I did see tons of books in a great little indie.  And I also met Duchess, one of the booksellers and just the dog to protect Classic Lines in case the squirrel overlords retake the neighborhood.

This indie has been around for almost three years and happily things are going very well.  They started out offering used books and it went so well that they shifted their focus and now offer almost exclusively new books.  The bookstore is a one-level space of medium size and this space was formerly a women's dress shop.  The fitting rooms of the dress shop are now little nooks of unique sales rooms.  The store also offers a few sidelines including greeting cards, journals, reading glasses, and jigsaw puzzles to name a few.  But, as Mary Sue, one of the staffers told me, the books are the thing here and they are going very well.

The store is involved with a variety of events but one of the best things is that they are the bookstore that provides the books for the city's lecture series, a great stroke of success for any bookstore.  What more could this store want in terms of success?  How about Duchess the bookstore dog?  If nothing else, you have to come here and meet Duchess.  Prepare to be charmed.  

I had a great time meeting Duchess and her owner, Mary Sue.  Mary Sue told me lots about the store and the area and I came away with a lot of optimism about the future for Classic Lines.  Dan, the owner, was not here on the day of my visit but he and his staff have done a super job.  Everything is quite well arranged and displayed.  They have a good core of regulars but also many out-of-towners as well.  I will tell you that if you drive here, parking can be challenging in this area.  But don't give up, your patience will be rewarded when you see this great place.

If you don't see any squirrels in this neighborhood, pay a visit to Duchess at Classic Lines.  You can thank her personally and check out the books.  I felt perfectly comfortable and safe from squirrel marauders at this terrific Pittsburgh indie.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Nix, Nathan Hill.   

An extremely rare photograph of two renowned celebrities.  Duchess on the left and earnest readers of this blog will recognize the celebrity on the right.  Yes, that's my mom.  This is how you may be welcomed to the store.  

This is a great front window display, difficult to see though due to the glare.  

The mantra of every indie.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

A nice wall display to the right of the front entrance.  

Another great display to the left of the front entrance.  

Two comfy chairs to try out a book.  

If you're in Pittsburgh, look for something about the Pirates.  Or Penguins.  Or Steelers.  

Some of the authors coming to Pittsburgh.  

These items are located in a room that used to be a fitting room in a former life of the store.  

A very unique way to display their reading glasses.  

Due to the popularity of the store and the high sales, Duchess needs to take frequent breaks from bookselling and squirrel guarding.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

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

With Mary Sue on the right, one of the fine booksellers at Classic Lines.  Thanks for a great visit.