Monday, August 27, 2018

The Writer's Block Bookstore & Café - Anchorage, AK

The Writer's Block Bookstore & Café, Anchorage, AK
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It is so refreshing to me when I get to visit newly opened bookstores around the country.  I've been fortunate to see many of these newbies and this one falls squarely (it's a block!  Get it?!) into that category.  A wonderful team of four women conceived an idea a few years ago of opening a bookstore in Anchorage.  Their vision required that the space have a cafe that offered beer, wine, coffee drinks, and food, an area for events including live music, and books.  Mission accomplished on all of those requirements and I think as this store evolves you'll see other things enter the picture.

The Block has only been open for about 7 months now.  It is enduring the growing pains and challenges that all new indies encounter but it is slowly starting to show some growth.  They offer all new books in a very attractive one-level setting.  They also have a few sidelines including some unique jewelry hand made by one of the store's own booksellers, Jessa.  As Vered, one of the store owners told me, there are lots of artists, writers, and musicians in Anchorage and Alaska and this store features works by many of them.  But the part of the business that is doing the best so far is the cafe.  Amber is one of the reasons for the cafe's success with her great work in the kitchen.  Everything offered is made from scratch and locally produced.  The versatile combinations of the store's business model is finally filling a void of something that's been missing in Anchorage.

The newness of the store means people are still discovering and hearing about it.  It's definitely a popular stop for artistic and creative talents of all mediums and they see many customers from the nearby military families.  Tourists are also finding their way here but the word will continue to spread about this indie.  They have a great location on the very busy Spenard Rd., between the airport and downtown and close to many nearby hotels.  In my opinion, this store is poised for a long, successful run.

I met Jessa, Amber, and 50% of the ownership, Vered and Kathy.  These people know their stuff and their combined talents are what make me very optimistic about their future.

Ok Anchorage, time to step-up.  I know you believe in "shop local'' and now you have a great place to do it.  Many of you haven't been here yet so time to check out this gem before the tourists beat you to it.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Woman In Cabin 10, Ruth Ware.  I'm late to the party on this one and now I understand the hype.  The mystery of a missing woman and possible murder but nobody on the small ship believes Lo, the protagonist, who insists something is wrong and that she isn't losing her mind.  The ending is very Dan Brown-esque with some of the unbelievable twists and the conclusion of the story has another unanswered mystery.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  The Unchangeable Spots Of Leopards, Kristopher Jansma. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Name Of The Wind, Patrick Rothfuss.

View looking into the store from the main entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

An overview and partial look at the cafe.  

Yes, yes, and yes.  Just try to resist one of these.  

Borealis Baubles made by Jessa, talented bookseller AND artisan.  

Some nice YA offerings.  

The area rug in the picture is on an elevated stage, a very nice events area.  

A few of the children's books available.  

The store has a good assortment of fiction, including many new and popular releases.  They'll continue to expand their inventory as the store evolves and grows.  

One of my favorite things about this store are all the wonderful places to sit.  Grab your coffee, pastry, a comfortable seat, and sample a book.  

Another cozy and comfy seating area.  Regular readers my recognize the celebrity lounging in this area.  Yes, that's my mom.  

All local and all available here at the cafe.  

Or consider some wine.  

I would strongly encourage you to find something on this menu and hang out.  This bookstore and cafe have a great vibe.  

Another overview of the store looking toward the front entrance.  

L-R in the front, Vered and Jessa.  And Kathy in the back, three of the wonderful people you'll meet at The Writer's Block Bookstore & Cafe.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fireside Books - Palmer, AK

Fireside Books, Palmer, AK
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I find it utterly amazing when I visit a bookstore that has been around for many years when it is located in a small town and a sparsely populated area.  But it's one thing to be a bookstore in a town of 5000 in Minnesota or Nebraska and entirely another to be in a town of 5000 in a remote region of Alaska.  Yet here it is, Palmer, AK and Fireside Books, residing together comfortably and successfully since 2001.  Nobody anywhere else has to endure harsh weather, difficult winters with limited daylight, and a light population like Fireside Books has.  But this place just keeps on ticking, a direct result of the work established by previous owners, David and Melissa, and current owner MaryAnn C., and most of all the fine people of Palmer and the surrounding area.  These folks understand (because they HAVE to), buy local, shop local.  Way to go, Palmer.

MaryAnn has been the owner here for about 6 months but has been with the store for much longer.  Fireside Books may be unknown to many but it has received some national attention.  Bob Eckstein, who wrote Footnotes From The World's Greatest Bookstores, featured this as one of his recognized bookstores.  In other words, tourist/bookstore people have a definite reason to visit here.  As it is, tourists have found this place, especially in the summers.  That complements the already strong local customers that propel it forward year round, especially during those dark winter months.

The store offers a fine assortment of new and used books, all shelved together.  Customers receive store credit for the good used books they bring in.  Fireside also offers a customer incentive program for their loyal regulars.  They have some sidelines here but most are literary or locally related.  Greeting cards, coffee, socks, journals, and more can all be found here.

One of my favorite things here is the partnership they have with some of the schools.  They are able to do book fairs but instead of going to the schools, the schools bring everyone to the store.  A great field trip that would be the envy of many other bookstores.

MaryAnn has a great personality for a bookstore and she was wonderful to talk to and trade lots of book ideas.  Meeting her, along with staffers Ellis and Elias are always highlights for me.  

If you're a local and you DON'T know about this place, wake up and smell the coffee.  Check out a bookstore that most of your friends have been going to since 2001.  You'll have a great time.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Woman In Cabin 10, Ruth Ware.    

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey.  

Very attractive front display window.  

If you ride your bike to Fireside Books, you have a great place to lock it up.  Very nice.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

Venturing to the right after you enter, you'll find the display of new arrivals.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

For those of you in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin who claim your region as the tundra?  Please.  Not even close.  

A better look at the display of new arrivals.  

Display of popular releases.  

Display of books of regional interests.  The store has lots in this genre.  

A portion of the children's section.  

Consider these last chance bargains at the check out counter.  

A battle of the books contest for young readers. 

Just about my favorite picture in any bookstore.

If you're a tourist, make sure you pick up your maps and tour guides.  

Almost every indie I've visited the last few months has a display promoting The Great American Read.  

A great genre for any indie but especially relevant in Alaska.  

People in Palmer get it.  Shop local, buy local, for all small businesses.  

For readers who may not know.  See this book?  That's what I did before I began this journey.  

An incredible work of art by a local customer, now hanging in the store.  

With MaryAnn, the fine owner at Fireside Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, August 17, 2018

Title Wave Books - Anchorage, AK

Title Wave Books, Anchorage, AK
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There are a few bookstores I walk in and just say, "wow."  Title Wave Books is one of them.  This is an expansive, one-level store, billed as the largest bookstore in Alaska (I can't imagine anything larger) and also billed as arguably the best (perhaps debatable, but I'm just beginning my Alaska tour and am sure that I will enjoy all my visits).  But for this location in Anchorage, surrounded by water, AND housing an inventory of half a million books, Title (tidal?!!) Wave Books is a great store name and a great play on words.

Angela L. is the new owner here for the last year but she's been a part of the store for 20 years.  They've been in their current location since 2002 and in business for 28 years.  When I asked Angela what the store's secret is she hit the nail on the head.  A clean, well-lit store, with staffers who are passionate about bookselling and books.  This is such a simple formula and I wholeheartedly agree with her after my visit here.

They offer almost all used books and just a few new ones.  For used books in good condition, customers can receive store credit or cash.  Most impressive to me is that they have all the used books entered on a data base.  They are especially strong with books of local interest that would appeal to tourists as well as their children's section.  Most indies have their children's area in the back or in a separate room.  Title Wave has it right up front and to the right after you enter.  The store serves many tourists (especially Memorial Day thru Labor Day) as well as a strong group of regulars (shout out to Connie!).  They host multiple groups in the store including chess club, scrabble club, writing clubs, and a cancer support group to name a few.  This is so indie!  I was curious about how things go in the winter months and Angela told me it goes really well.  Thankfully, things are going great here and they are doing more than just hanging on as proven by a 26-employee staff.  Way to go, Angela.

Angela, along with floor managers Wesleyan and Jeremiah were terrific and displayed that characteristic bookstore knowledge and kindness.

Sooner or later you'll get to Anchorage, on a cruise or vacationing on your own.  When you do, make a point to visit a true tidal wave of books, or dare I say an absolute tsunami.  You'll have a wonderful time with wonderful people.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Modigliani Scandal, Ken Follett.  I'm a big Follett fan, but this isn't one of his better books.  This one is defined as a thriller about the art world, art critics, art galleries, artists, and forgeries.  A whodunnit.  The story didn't make a lot of sense to me and was a bit hard to keep things straight.

CURRENTLY READING:  The Woman In Cabin 10, Ruth Ware.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  A Wolf Called Romeo, Nick Jans.  Not purchased, but gifted, a very cool Title Wave Books t-shirt.  Thanks Angela.

View from the parking lot where you'll find lots of free parking.  As you can see, this is a large store front.  

The store has a large display window.  

 You can start browsing just inside the front door before entering the store.

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  As you can see, it is a tidal wave of books.  Some of you may recognize an Indie Bob Spot staffer on the right, Michelle T.    

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  The children's section located in the front of the store.  

A nice place to sit by the front door and try a book.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  This is the area where you'll bring your good used books.  

Music on vinyl and CDs at the front of the store.  Don't worry, they have much more available than this.  

A great customer service for tourists who fly here and may have a weight limit with their baggage.  

An overview of the children's section.  

Partial view of the children's section.  Lots of little seats and tables for little readers.  

Wonderful display of children's bestsellers.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

Alaska topic books bestsellers display.  

More Alaska bestsellers.  

The store has lots of Alaska related books and sidelines.  

One of the many long book aisles.  

Alaska-related display.  

Did I mention that the store is huge?  Consider getting a map to find your genre or simply browse at your leisure.  

A wonderful display of staff picks.  Apologies for the blur, I was sprinting to see what everyone read!

You can get some great Title Wave shirts and sweatshirts in different styles and colors.  

As you continue to walk through the store, you're going to find some great deals that will fit any budget.  

Another bargain book display.  

Consider a little chess or checkers. 

The bargains get better and better the further into the store you go.  

Lots of music on CDs available.  

Also lots of music on vinyl.  

I love the mural in the back of the store.  

Looking for a movie?  They have those too!

This is a great area in the back of the store for groups and clubs.  

Bookshelves the length of the store.  

An overview of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance.  

From L-R, yours truly, Angela, Jeremiah, and Wesleyan.  These are just a few of the rockstars you'll meet at Title Wave Books.  Thanks for a great visit.