Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Baldwin's Book Barn - West Chester, PA

Baldwin's Book Barn, West Chester, PA
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Cozy up to this antique wood-burner in the main room
Brace yourselves.  When you enter Baldwin's Book Barn in rural West Chester you're going to be sucked into a time machine.  You'll be taking a trip back to early Americana and it hit me just inside the door with the smell of the antique wood-burning stove.  This place oozes history and books.  How could it not?  It truly is housed in a barn built in 1822.  Over a century later, in 1946, it began on a run that continues today and is owned by Tom Baldwin, the son of the original owners.  As Fred D. told me, this bookstore is a destination.  He confirmed to me what I knew before arriving that it is indeed a destination.  And
if the history doesn't suck you in, the 4 floors of books, maps, and antique effects will.

This historic building has been recrafted into 4 floors of used books, a 250,000+ inventory.  There is also a 5th floor of books but it is not open to the public.  Even though it houses books, the thick wooden beams and narrow wooden steps speak to what it used to be.  The store has really cut back on the number of books it takes in, however, many customers simply donate their good used books.  Aside from that, unless a book can be resold for $50 or more, they generally don't take it.  The store offers many vintage and collectable books, but with the internet offering many of these, sales become difficult.  If there are collectors who don't know about Baldwin's Book Barn, they should absolutely visit.

I didn't meet the 2nd generation owner, Tom Baldwin, but I did meet Fred who is one of three retirees who take care of this place.  He was great to talk to and since he's a former English teacher, I hope he's not too hard on this brief essay!  You'll especially enjoy talking to him about an old man who was reading a newspaper upstairs a few years ago.  Fact or fiction?  Let's just say that some old buildings have unexplained "inhabitants."

This destination is right along the tourist trail, which brings in great business for the store.  And even though things are going well, the business is for sale.  For many of my followers and bookstore friends, here's your chance.  Grab this piece of history and continue the fine tradition of a bookstore that was once recognized as a best used book store in Pennsylvania.  Check out this must-see in the picturesque countryside of West Chester, PA.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Last Night At The Lobster, Stewart O' Nan.  Story about a staff working their last night at a Red Lobster which will close permanently.  This night there is a fierce blizzard and customers are slim but there is a tour bus that gets their hopes up except they only want to use the restroom.  This is a quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Why Dogs Chase Cars, George Singleton.

You'll know you're in the right place when you see this sign.  

Another exterior view and the spacious parking lot.  

Main entrance.  

View looking to the left of the main entrance.  

View looking to the right from the main entrance.  Through that door you'll find a few more book rooms and then a stairway that will get you up to the 2nd level.  

Some of the encased collectable editions at the main counter.  

The inventory grows and these books will need a home.

Lots of maps.  

One of the side rooms on the main floor.  
Looking back across the length of the first floor.  You can see the thick wooden beams of the ceiling and for those of you about 6'0" and taller, heads up.  Watch what you're doing or you'll bump your head.  

Little chairs for little people in their section of the main floor.  

Now on the 2nd floor and looking slightly left.  

Looking to the right on the 2nd floor.  

This warning sign will appear on some of those wooden beams on the ceiling.  Watch your head!  

Lots of long book aisles that look like this.  

Lots of chairs so you don't have to rush your browsing.  

Looking into the 3rd floor.  

In addition to books about music, you can find sheet music and books with music for a variety of instruments.  CDs are also in this room.  

You don't even have to bring your own shopping bag!

March on up to the 4th floor.  

The 4th floor has a left side and a right side with two separate stairways.  

Lots of Cliffs Notes.  Boy, some us could have used a few of these back in college.  

Great view on the 4th floor.  

If you need books written in Russian, find them on the 4th floor.  

There are tons of volumes here that have local interest.   

More collectable editions, right inside the front entrance.  

With Fred on the left, one of the fine staffers you'll meet at Baldwin's Book Barn.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Chapters - Miami, OK

Chapters, Miami, OK
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This article is my "call-to-arms" to all the fine folks in Miami, OK.  You have a gem in your midst yet some of you haven't visited yet.  What gives?  There is no need to visit a large, discount department store when you have a perfectly fine local, independent business right in the middle of downtown.  A business that will keep your money in the community.  The "shop-local, buy-local" movement is gaining ground all over the country and I think it's an important component for all communities to recognize.  Thankfully, many of the people in Miami are all over this.  

This one-level store in a historic building offers a nice assortment of new books but clearly the strength of the business is its sidelines and cafe.  If you come here and can't find gift ideas you're not trying!  I would compare this store to a museum where you would see something new and different on every visit (newbies, this means you'll have to return).  And I would love to be here if a bus load of kids came in.  They will love this place!  You'll find items for all ages and tastes.  Everything from a line of Vera Bradley and some wonderful designer jewelry produced locally, to fake mustaches.

One of the things that gave the store a big boost was when it was able to offer Starbucks coffee in their cafe.  This brought them more business and also brought in people who otherwise might not have visited.

Chapters has a nice room in the store that's available for use by groups and/or events.  It's also a great area for the monthly book club.  Whether you come here to use this large room or just to see the store you'll enjoy finding easy on-street parking right in front and for free.

I didn't get to meet the owners on this visit but I am so glad I got to meet Lee M., assistant manager.  She was so much fun to talk to and told me a lot about the store and the town.  The store is on a good run dating back to 2006 and I see no reason for it to come to an end anytime soon.

Miami has a population of approximately 13,000 and there are many towns much larger who have nothing like this.  Show your appreciation for this wonderful store with your presence and patronage.  I know all the regular customers will agree!  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Evolution Of Bruno Littlemore, Benjamin Hale.  This is a memoir/autobiography of Bruno Littlemore, a chimp who learned how to talk and became very educated.  He "evolved" into a human and he tells his story from captivity in a zoo, to science experiment, living with Lydia, the human love of his life, and all the experiences afterward.  This is a pretty good read but it took me awhile to get into it.  I thought it was a bit verbose and could have been edited down some.  But in the end, I enjoyed the story even though it was weird at times.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Last Night At The Lobster, Stewart O'Nan.

The store has lots of great window display space,  

Lots of stores I visit have a history as another business.  Back in the day, this was the store you'd enter.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Long-time readers may recognize the celebrity on the left powering through the store.  Yes, that's my mom.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  

This store has EVERYTHING!

If you have a toddler, check these out located near the front entrance.  

A partial view of the kid's section.  

Find this display for bestsellers.  

Every Harry Potter fan in Miami should have one of these.

Find these shelves for children's fiction.  

Find this room near the back of the store, a great space for meetings and/or events.  

A great Oklahoma mural in the meeting room.  

Always ask about gift cards at any indie.  

Women will find many great items to shop for.  

The store has a large cafe counter.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

A nice self-help section.  

If you're goal is to travel Route 66, you'll go right by this store.  Make sure you stop in.  

A good section of history and local interests.  

Grab a coffee, a seat, and a book.  

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

Every kid in Miami needs one of these.  Local teachers, you can thank me later.  

With Lee, one of the fine people you'll meet at Chapters.  Thanks for a great visit.