Thursday, August 31, 2017

Country Bookshelf - Bozeman, MT

Country Bookshelf, Bozeman, MT
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Newsflash:  Bozeman, MT is a tourist destination.  Holy crap, I should say so!  On the week day of my visit to Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, the main thorough fare into town was clogged with bumper to bumper traffic and once I got into the business district a crush of pedestrians was added to the traffic.  It made a trip to Disneyland look positively sedate.  As Wendy, one of the booksellers told me, she thinks the store's business is 75% tourists in the summers (I think Wendy underestimated it on the day of my visit!).  As for the bookstore's location, Ariana, the owner along along with her husband, described it as perfect.  I couldn't agree more.  This bookstore is at ground zero for the energy you'll find in Bozeman.

Regular readers know about my original journey to visit all the indies featured in Ron Rice's, My Bookstore (journey completed).  However, if there is ever a sequel, Country Bookshelf needs to be included.  You know all those great qualities I check off for wonderful and successful bookstores?  This store has them in spades.  A beautiful two-level store that includes a wrap-around interior balcony.  Once you get inside, it is really much larger than it looks.  An extensive inventory of all new books, including a large children's section.  Numerous and varied sidelines including greeting cards, crazy socks, and items inherent with the region.  The store hosts frequent author events both on-site and at a larger venue off-site.  And one of my favorite things to hear from Ariana, an outstanding staff of people.

But there's more.  When I asked Ariana if the store is sustaining and if she can see a shift in attitudes to the "shop local" movement, she answered with a resounding "yes" to both.  In fact, since 2010 business here has doubled.  What a great sign for independent bookstores.  As Ariana told me, the community values the importance of an independent bookstore and its 60 year existence is a testament to that.

If Bozeman isn't the hippest town in the Montana mountains, its in the conversation.  And thanks to people like Ariana, Wendy, Jamie, and the rest of the staff (and customers!) at Country Bookshelf, Bozeman just might be at the top.  Look for a reason to visit this beautiful part of the country and then make sure you get to Country Bookshelf in Bozeman.  You'll discover something that everyone needs to know.  A 5-star bookstore supported by a 5-star cast.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Phantom Limbs, Paula Gardner.  Couldn't finish it.  A good book for the right person but just not for me.  Plot revolved around three teenagers, a boy, his girlfriend who left him heart broken, and his platonic girl buddy.

CURRENTLY READING:  After The Fall, Noah Hawley.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Brave Deeds, David Abrams.  This House Of Sky, Ivan Doig.  The Highway, C. J. Box.

A wonderful storefront.  

One of the display windows.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Just a few of the greeting cards available.  

Display of books signed by the authors.  Behind the display you see the front stairway that takes you to the second level.  There is also a stairway in the back of the store.  

A great picture of one long wall of bookshelves.  Notice all the blue shelf-talkers of staff recommendations.  

Display of books by local authors.  

When you visit a Montana bookstore, you might find horse pens.  

A relevant section of books for Montana.  

I could get extremely comfortable with a book here.  

See those blue pieces of paper?  Those are staff recommendations and you can find them throughout the store.  

I love these pencils that look like they came from the pencil tree!

You'll find crazy socks like these around the store.  If you see a pair you like, you should get them.  You won't see them in many other places.  

Kids will love some of the Melissa & Doug items available.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

Another view into the children's section.  

This is the room you'll see on the second level going up the back stairway.  

Lots of books to check out upstairs.  

A few of the many sidelines you'll find here.  

This is the narrow balcony area upstairs that stretches the whole length of the store.  This picture is from the back of the store toward the front.  

Looking down from the second level toward the front of the store.  

Another overview of the store from the upstairs balcony.  Discerning readers may recognize the celebrity seated in the center.  Yes, that's my mom.  

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

With Wendy on the left and Ariana in the center, two of the fine people you'll meet at Country Bookshelf.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

This House Of Books - Billings, MT

This House Of Books, Billings, MT
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One of the things I enjoy about my many bookstore visits is the opportunity I get to meet the owners or co-owners.  To a person, all have been wonderful people and a joy to meet.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet the owners at This House Of Books and it would've been extremely difficult to do so.  You see, there are over 300 owners at this bookstore.  This House Of Books is a co-op where its members are its owners who then have a one share membership.  For a one-time buy-in, they become part owners of an independent bookstore.  The members of the co-op include local authors, educators, and employees of the local universities, MSU Billings and Rocky Mountain College.  Even though I didn't get to meet any of the owners, I did get to meet the store's general manager, Gustavo B., who did a great job filling me in on the town and the bookstore.

This House Of Books has a great corner location in the heart of Billings.  The store has a very expansive one-level space with lots of flexibility and room for browsing and all kinds of events.  They've only been in business for less than a year and after a tough January and February, are starting to see some good growth.  The store's focus can really be divided into three categories.  New books, board and table games, and tea.  As Gustavo told me, board and table games are really having a comeback in popularity.  As for the tea, it appeared to me that the varieties available were limitless.

The store is already enjoying a good core of regular customers and they are also seeing tourists during the summer.  Some of the store's best business coincides with the weekly downtown farmer's market, one of the advantages of their location.  In addition to their author events, they also have a weekly game night which is very popular and another great way to bring people into the store.  If you drive here, you can find metered parking on the street or nearby parking ramps.

Pay a visit to This House Of Books and enjoy an experience of unencumbered browsing and a hot tea.  You'll have a great time doing that and meeting Gustavo, which adds up to a terrific bookstore experience.  If you're in Billings, find your way to this indie and consider a membership as a way to support your community AND a bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Dead Wake, Erik Larson.  If you haven't read anything by this author, I would highly recommend him.  He writes non-fiction accounts of historical events, some less known than others, and everything I've read by him is outstanding.  Dead Wake is the account of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-boat in 1915, a prelude to America's entry into WWI.  With many American passengers on board this commercial liner, it was one of the events that led to America's involvement in the war.  Larson's research is impeccable.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Phantom Limbs, Paula Garner.

Another exterior view of this great downtown location.  

Looking toward the left into the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  Beautiful wooden floors, tables, and bookshelves, everything very neatly arranged.    

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A great window seat near the front of the store to sip a tea and browse a book.  

Always a great idea.  

I thought these sling bags and hand bags offered here were outstanding.  

Lots of items here that the kids will enjoy.  

The store offers a line of Melissa & Doug items.  

A portion of the children's section and some great places to sit.  

Birds that tweet.

A comfy chair for you and your book.  

These table and chairs come in handy on game nights.  

A few of the items of local interest and local authors.  

Look for the red stickers and buy a bargain.  

Anyone besides me ever sit in a desk like this back in grade school?  

This is the tea/cafe area.  You can only see some of the varieties offered in this picture.  

A long wall of book shelves that looks toward the front entrance.  

This display has some of the board games that are played on game night.  

I don't know about all the new board games so I might have to go "old school" for some Scrabble.  

If you spend enough on the books for sale in the store, you'll be directed to this bin to pick up a freebie.  I like the idea of this!  

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

This display highlights books written by the some of the store members/owners.  

With Gustavo on the left, the fine store manager at This House Of Books.  Thanks for a great visit.