Friday, September 29, 2017

Ink Link Books - East Troy, WI

Ink Link Books, East Troy, WI
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

When I opened the door to Ink Link Books I didn't even walk in right away, I couldn't.  I was looking into an oasis.  Looking into this bookstore had a breathtaking effect on my senses.  This bookstore has only been open 11 weeks (another new indie, they're everywhere!) and they didn't just back up a truck and shovel the books into an empty business space.  No, this bookstore was well-thought out and well-planned.  In fact, the planning and remodeling took about 9 months, longer than the store has been open so far.  The interior shelving, light fixtures, coloring and painting, arranged displays, and detailed mural work are outstanding.  As Kayleen, the owner, told me, she wanted to provide an experience.  This is one of the reasons I encourage readers to visit independent bookstores, for an experience that you cannot get by clicking the submit button on the internet.  You will absolutely get that here, from the beautiful interior and craftsmanship, to the relaxing classical music lightly playing in the background, to meeting one of the kindest owners anywhere.  For crying out loud, you'll have such a wonderful visit Kayleen should consider implementing a cover charge!

This beautiful (I cannot overstate this) small split-level bookstore is located on the town square of East Troy, WI, population approximately 4200.  In the short period of time since opening, things have been outstanding.  Kayleen has only recently added a few sidelines including NY Times greeting cards, reading glasses, and soy candles.  It's too early to know for sure how the sidelines will go but as she told me, "we're a bookstore," and book sales have been very successful.  And for a smallish sized store, she packs the books in.  Everything extremely well-organized and in a very neat manner.  There haven't been any author events yet but the store held a very successful "read and feed" event at the cafe next door, Square Roots (If you visit the bookstore you have to visit here.  Lunch was outstanding, thanks James).  There will be more events like this to come and I only wish I lived closer so I could attend one.

The people here take "midwest-friendly" to a whole new level.  Kayleen, her husband James, and two of their kids are some of the nicest people you can hope to meet.  I shake my head at my good fortune of meeting a wonderful owner AND her equally wonderful family.  

Many of the customers are coming from the surrounding East Troy area.  If you're reading these words I have one word of advice, GO.  Run, don't walk, to this incredible new bookstore in East Troy.  I see nothing but the brightest of futures for this emerging star.  Congratulations Kayleen, on your new adventure.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin.  11-year old boy Marcus is orphaned when his mother is killed and he is sent to live with his great aunt on a remote island off of South Carolina.  The boy is very well-adjusted for his age and on the island spends time visiting a deserted cottage known to locals as grief cottage because the family who lived there was lost to sea during a hurricane.  But Marcus thinks a ghost remains.  I found this book to be rather depressing.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Unbelievable, Katy Tur.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas.

Another exterior view.  A beautifully restored historical building.  

One of the exterior display windows.  

View looking into the store.  

The store just recently began offering reading glasses. 

Looking to the left of the front entrance and behind the check-out counter.  

Back in the 1920s, this space was a hardware store.  When you visit here, make sure you check out the picture of this space.  

Some of the greeting cards available located near the front entrance.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  This is an example of some of the mural artwork which I think is outstanding.  Also notice the light fixture and shelving.  

This goddess mural is on the ceiling just inside the front entrance.  

Another goddess mural inside the front display window.  

This is the light fixture above the checkout counter.  You really need to see this place in person because my pictures just don't do it justice.  

Recently added soy candles available here.  

A nice view of some of the shelving and light fixtures.  

A wonderful book display surrounding the functional gas fire place which will soon be put to use.  One more wonderful touch that will add to your bookstore experience.  

Any book will do this.  

Visual confirmation, bathrooms available.  

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

A portion of the children's area.  

The raised split-level runs across the right side of the store.  You can get there up these steps in the back of the store or up a set of steps in the front of the store.  

I love this picture not only for the bookshelves but for the beautiful small light fixtures on the wall along the way.  

Looking down onto the main floor from the split-level.  

Another great view of the bookshelves on the raised split-level.  

Always ask your independent bookstore about gift certificates.  

New book day at Ink Link, confirmation that things are going very well.  

With Kayleen, the fine owner at Ink Link Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Otto Bookstore - Williamsport, PA

Otto Bookstore, Williamsport, PA
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This is another entry that I hope is an encouragement to the many new independent bookstore owners I've met along my journey.  Otto's Bookstore in Williamsport is an example of a bookstore that can endure and sustain in a smallish community (approximately 29,000) for more than just a few years.  This store hasn't been open for decades, it has been open for centuries.  Otto's can trace its bookstore lineage and its founding back to 1841, certainly making it one of the longest continually operating bookstores in the country.  This bears the question, how the heck have they done it?  The answer is simply, Williamsport.

I always recommend to all my readers that they enjoy a visit to the bookstores I visit or any others for that matter.  However, Williamsport is the home of the little league world series which coincided with my visit to Otto's.  If you're an out-of-towner, I would suggest you visit ANY other time!  I was probably the only non-local who wasn't in Williamsport for the little league world series.  But the good news about this annual event is that it brings lots of visitors in town which is always beneficial for Otto's.  These customers along with a strong group of regulars (including, I assume, descendants of regulars) are what help Otto's remain vibrant.  As Alissa, one of the book buyers told me, the community has a very strong tradition of fine arts and performing arts as well as more young families with young children.  These factors and its long business tradition help to keep Otto's successful.  The other keys will sound familiar to other successful indies.  Solid customer service, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and in my opinion, flexibility and adaptability to the times.

The one-level store has a great downtown location and has been in this spot for 27 years.  They offer all new books, a few sidelines, and are currently re-structuring the store under the new ownership with Katie and Isak.  The children's section is especially good and will continue to expand in the future.

Alissa, Nance, one of the booksellers, and the other staffers here are the reason I enjoy indies so much.  These people are fantastic and you will thoroughly enjoy meeting and talking to them.  I would strongly encourage you to visit their website and read about their fascinating history.

If you do find yourself in Williamsport for the little league world series, take a break from the games and visit a place that's been around much longer.  A national bookstore with a storied history.  If you're in the Williamsport area and haven't been to the place yet, for shame!  You're missing out on a great store with great people.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:   Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Not purchased but gifted, thanks Nance!  Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin.

Two of the wonderful display windows.  

Start your bargain shopping before you even enter the store.  

One of the sidewalk window display windows.  

Looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Step to the left after entering and try to keep your heart rate down after this view.   

Out-of-towners will want to find a postcard at this display near the front entrance.  

I see some great recommendations from Alissa on these shelves.  

A nice display and a couple of nice places to sit shortly after you enter the front entrance.  

I love seeing things like this.  A receipt from the bookstore dated 1914.  By this year, the was store already 73 years old.  Remarkable.  For many years, wallpaper was one of the important parts of the business.    

A great sentiment.  

Find these shelves for a few bargains.  

Just a few of the greeting cards available.  

A partial view of the children's section, under remodeling.  It's probable that this area will look different when you visit. Williamsport, to the bookstore, and to the little league world series.  

An overview of the store looking toward the front entrance.  

A nice display of Crane & Co. stationery.  

Always one of my favorite pictures.  

Lots of postcards in book form.

With Nance on the left and Alissa on the right, two of the all-stars you'll meet at the Otto Bookstore.  Make sure you check out their recommended reads.  Thanks for a great visit.  

And of course, they do their best imitation of Indie Bob!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Plains Trading Co. Books - Valentine, NE

The Plains Trading Co. Books, Valentine, NE
(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

This indie is another example of just when I think I've seen it all, I find another remarkable store that has survived incredible odds.  The Plains Trading Co Books in Valentine is in the northwestern part of Nebraska, about nine miles south of the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota.  The population in Valentine is approximately 2800.  This town is remote and there is little of consequence within a couple of hours.  Against this backdrop, a bookstore has survived and endured for 25 years.  What a store this is and what a grand record of success.  Given this history, you would think this bookstore has limitations.  Think again.  This indie can do just about anything any of the others can.

This is another store that I was tipped off about when visiting elsewhere.  Before Chad at Main Street Books in Norfolk, NE opened his store, he paid a visit to Valentine and Plains Trading to get some ideas and advice.  When I met Chad at Main Street Books, he told me I should go to Valentine, so here I am.  As you might expect with its location, the store has a strong section of local, regional, Nebraska-related, and Native Amercian books and sidelines.  But they also have a good assortment of new general fiction and non-fiction.  I thought their other strength was their variety of children's books, toys, games, and educational items.  If you can't make it to the store, you can always visit their website and place an order online.  And if they don't have the book you want in the store, go ahead and order it from them.

The sidelines they have here are numerous and definitely critical to the store's success.  I especially like some of the Native American art work available and for sale.  You can also find wine, gourmet coffee, Native American flutes, greeting cards created by local artists (like Duane G., the owner), and so much more.  They also have enjoyed a 25-year relationship with some of the South Dakota schools as well as the school and library in Valentine, another important part of the business.

I didn't get to meet Duane on this day but I did meet his wife Darlene and Teena, one of the staffers.  As you would expect, after 25 years Darlene really knows her stuff and she's part of the reason that Plains Trading marches on in the bookstore business.  New indie owners can take hope in the success of a bookstore like this one.  This place is right on Highway 20 that cuts through the country.  On your next cross-country tour, hit this one along the way.  It will be a while before you get to another.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Peace Like A River, Leif Enger.  This was a big book award winner some years back but I think it's overrated.  Too literary for me but I know that will appeal to many readers.  Story of the 16-year old boy who kills two bullies that have harassed his family.  He escapes confinement becoming a fugitive and the remaining story is of the father, brother, and sister who try to find him.  Liked it, didn't love it.

CURRENTLY READING:  Grief Cottage, Gail Godwin.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Jesse James wine.

Another exterior picture.  Notice the red hearts and then remember what the name of this town is.  

A great place to sit outside the store on a nice day.  

Very attractive display window.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the left inside the front entrance.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Great display near the front entrance.  

Another nice display of popular releases.  

Some books for the kids.  

A portion of the children's area.  

Lots of sidelines here are created by local artists.  Attentive readers may recognize the celebrity on the right.  Yes, that's my mom.  

Have a seat and sample a book.  

Native American artwork is available here and can be found throughout the store.  

A long wall of books and artwork.  
Need a quilt book?  Find them here.  

A variety of Native American flutes.  I loved seeing these.  

Coffee and wine.  Along with the books, what else would you need?!

Just to make sure, go ahead and get one.  

A variety of sidelines.  

Lots of stuff for kids here.  

View into the back room area.  

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

Not many bookstores offer pure honey.  

With Darlene in the middle and Teena on the right.  Thanks for a great visit.