Sunday, September 30, 2018

M & M Books - Cedar Rapids, IA

M & M Books, Cedar Rapids, IA
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I've traveled far and wide, coast to coast, Canada and Mexico, and have had experienced the joy of seeing wonderful bookstores and meeting amazing people.  But this bookstore visit is especially exciting because it's in my hometown.  I don't have to tell Ursula L., the owner, that I wished I lived close enough to be a regular, something I tell many others.  I've spent countless hours in airports, and behind a steering wheel but this bookstore was less than 5-minute drive.  You haven't heard me tell you about it because it's a newbie and well, I've been on the road!  But this indie is a secret no more and the word will continue to get out.  This place is terrific and things are only going to get better.

This is actually my 2nd visit to M & M.  I first visited at their grand opening back in June but wanted to wait awhile before returning so I could get an accurate picture.  This store celebrates its one-year anniversary on Oct 1.  The business was formerly Basically Books, a largely paperback store offering mostly romance novels.  To say there's been an overhaul would be an understatement.  This one-level store offers an inventory of 40,000 new and used books (with another 15,000 in storage) of all genres.  Even more impressive is that they have this extensive inventory on their data base.  The store feels much brighter and cleaner than the previous business.  They also offer a rapidly increasing inventory of collectable and vintage books available for purchase via their website.  They are just starting to offer book purchases online and are optimistic for positive growth and success in this.  Customers can receive store credit for their good used books although many customers simply donate books to the store which is a great benefit to any indie.  In return, Ursula donates books they don't need to hospitals and assisted living centers, to name a few.  This is so indie!

Most successful indies offer a variety of in-store events and activities and M & M is no different.  As Ursula said, there are more local authors in this area than one would think.  In the summer months, they host a story time for kids.  The store is also host to several bookclubs.  The greeting cards are the only sideline of note but they're expecting to expand this part of the business in time.

Cedar Rapids is now fortunate to be the home of two independent bookstores, also claiming Next Page Books.  Ursula has big ideas for M & M and an excellent vision for future success and there is NO reason why this region can't support these two fine indies.  I'll expect to hear from many of my local friends and readers that you'll be paying a visit to M & M Books in the near future.  You'll have a great time meeting Ursula and discovering a wonderful bookstore right under your noses.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Shakespeare Requirement, Julie Schumacher.  Irascible Professor Fitger has been named the department chair of a small college English department.  All of the people in his department are just as odd as he is.  The economics department is looking to shove the English department into the basement of their shared building.  Nothing is state of the art and includes faulty air conditioning, crappy computers, and wasps.  An amusing look at academe.  Recommended.  I would also highly recommend this author's previous book, Dear Committee Members, which is another hilarious book featuring Professor Fitger.

CURRENTLY READING:  Behind Closed Doors, B. A. Paris.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Ol' Doc's Cornfield Chronicles, Myron Williams.  

This message sign outside the strip mall where M & M is located has made a huge difference in people finding out about the store.  

Another exterior view.  

The store has lots of display window space, this is just some of it.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  There are rooms on each side of the room at the main entrance.  

Every store and library I've visited in the last several weeks has had a banned book display.  

One of the displays of new September releases.  

If you're not browsing the books, consider a snack and a beverage.  Appropriately, M & M Books offers M & Ms.  

Now that banned books week is over, many stores will feature Halloween themed displays. 

An overview of the room on the left side of the store.  

M & M Books is named after Ursula's mom, Marilyn, and a niece, Meg.  

A partial view of the children's section.  

Another view of the children's section.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

No matter the price, you'll find some great buys.  

Some M & M customers enjoy finding "spicy" books.  This is their section, found in the room to the right.  

One long wall of books.  

There are several book aisles in the room to the right.  

The book aisle on the back wall.  

Or place an order for something they don't have.  

An overview of the store and the main room, looking toward the front entrance.  

Ursula's mom, Marilyn, was a huge mystery fan and these were some of her favorites.  

This sounds good to me!

The store is host to several book clubs.  Consider bringing yours here!

With Ursula, the fine owner at M & M Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Novel Destination, Used Book Emporium - Jamestown, NY

Novel Destination, Used Book Emporium, Jamestown, NY
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When you visit Novel Destination in Jamestown, NY, you'll naturally be impressed with the amount of books offered in a small, two-level space.  But it didn't take me long to figure out that the stars of the show here are Carrie W., the owner, and her sidekick shop dog, Scout.  It's a recurring theme for me to tell you about the kindness and sincerity of bookstore people and Carrie fits that description to a "t."  I've met literally hundreds of people on this journey and none are any nicer than Carrie.  She cares deeply about community, assisting the elderly with book orders among other things, as well as sending cards to veterans organizations, and these are just the things I know about.  She has a chair by her desk in her store for customers who talk to her about various personal problems.  She even keeps a first aid kit handy and has had to use it on occasion.  And best of all don't expect to leave the store without getting a hug.  This all comes natural to a former nurse who is now a bookstore owner and has brought compassion and tender-heartedness to both professions.

When you enter the building's side entrance and step into the store, you'll ask yourself where are the books.  The store houses approximately 35,000 used books but it won't look like it at first.  However, as you browse throughout, you'll find three rooms full of books on the main level and many more in the basement.  All told, a good space in several sections.  The bookstore shares the building with a barbershop and Carrie says that it's been good for both businesses sharing customers.  In addition to getting books from customers for trade, Carrie has also become friends with many librarians around the country and this has proven to be a good source for acquiring books.  The only sidelines here are the greeting cards which do very well.  The store has been here for 7 years and the good news is that things are going well and Carrie is seeing steady growth.

I've met some teddy bear dogs on my journey (hello Benji, Neighborhood Reads) but Scout is one of the best.  He'll tell you that you can order Novel Destination books online, but why would you do that when you can come to the store and see him?

If you're in the Jamestown, NY area and haven't found this place yet, check it out.  You'll meet a wonderful owner, Scout the shop dog, and get a hug with your book.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The President Is Missing, James Patterson & Bill Clinton.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I don't read a lot of Patterson so can't compare it to his other books but this one was a page-turning thriller about cyber terrorists determined to hack America's internet and totally disable the country.  It is realistic with current events making it all the more frightening.  Highly recommended.    

CURRENTLY READING:  The Shakespeare Requirement, Julie Schumacher.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Beginner's Guide To Keeping Chickens, Lee Faber.  Not purchased, but gifted, Extraordinary Chickens, Stephen Green-Armytage.  A Month On Green Street, Tom Hanks.  Thanks Carrie.    

This is the building that houses two small businesses, including Novel Destination.  

Follow this arrow... the side door entrance.  

This bookstore has its own customized car!  I don't think I've visited any other indie that has their own car, a traveling advertisement.  I love it!  

View looking into the store from the entrance.  Keep in mind that this is one room of many.  

Scout was on break from book selling when I arrived.  

A couple of places to sit while you test drive a book.  

This area is where they occasionally host events.  It also doubles as a waiting area for the barber shop.  

After you're done in the front room, proceed onward.  

Book room one, with the organized contents as listed above.  

Scout helping me to pick out a book.  

Continue now to book room two.  

Book room two with genres and organization as listed above.  

I really like it when bookstores are able to display books with the covers facing out.  I don't know about other customers but this makes it easier for me to pick out a book to buy.    

Consider picking up a greeting card to go with the book you're getting.  

This is what I call old school!  This is the store's inventory, old school style!

Words of wisdom left on the store's door by previous customers.  

One of the storerooms in the basement.

This hallway in the basement connects the two storerooms.  

A great deal!

Looking to the right in the main room downstairs.    

Looking to the left in the main room downstairs.  

One of the book nooks in the downstairs room.  

With Carrie, the fine owner at Novel Destination, Used Book Emporium.  Thanks for a great visit.