Thursday, April 25, 2019

Hartfield Book Co - Monticello, IL

Hartfield Book Co, Monticello, IL
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There's just no way around it here but to call this place as cute as a button.  If it were a baby you'd want to pinch its cheeks.  It's an attractive store, both inside and out and owner Nicole S. has done an outstanding job birthing this baby (yes, this really is a baby, only 4 months old).  So go ahead and check this little one out, but instead of pinching the cheeks, browse the books.  

Monticello is a town of approximately 5000 and at long last finally has an independent bookstore thanks to Nicole and her vision.  It's a small, one-level space but don't let that fool you.  Nicole has done an outstanding job of curating an inventory that I would put up as good as any other indie.  The store offers all new books and a small variety of sidelines including greeting cards (they sell well), t-shirts, buttons, and journals to name a few.  Like other new indies, Nicole is still finding her footing for the right sidelines.  The store is already holding a weekly story time which is a huge success.  They've held one author event so far but there are plans on the horizon for a more active events schedule.  They've already started a store book club, always a great idea.  Best of all, Nicole has a partnership with some local school libraries who get their books from the store.  I wish every bookstore could enjoy school partnerships like this.  Such a great example of supporting your small local business.

One of my favorite things here is the store reading room.  Many smaller stores don't have accommodations for customers who want to sit, relax, and try out a book without the feeling of obligation or being bothered by a staffer.  Go to the back hallway, turn left, and enjoy a comfortably furnished room to sit in and at least pretend to be reading.

Nicole was as nice as the store she owns and you will genuinely enjoy meeting her and talking about books.  She's already blessed with loyal regulars, a great location on the square, and a sympathetic landlord with a reasonable lease.

The word is still getting out about this shining star, especially for out-of-towners.  So if you're in the area or simply passing through, take time to visit and pinch the cheeks of this brand new baby bookstore.  Congratulations Nicole.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah.  Two thumbs way up!  Story of a Viet Nam vet and former POW who returns home and struggles with his return to the US.  He, his wife, and daughter decide to move to Alaska in search of a simpler life, living off the land.  But it becomes tougher and tougher for the vet to maintain his sanity and things divert further and further away from normalcy.  This story is incredible, one of the best books I've read in the last several months, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  Highly recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  I'll Be Gone In The Dark, Michelle McNamara.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway.

Exterior view of the beautiful storefront.  

Walking down the sidewalk in this direction.  Prepare yourself to take a right turn. 

The sign pretty much defines my weakness.  

Lots of great window display space.  

On the wall to the right after entering are some great literary-themed prints.  

View looking into the beautiful store space from the front entrance.  

Some impulse sideline buys that you can only find in independent bookstores.  

A nice view of the left side of the store.  

Beautiful spring decor.  The midwest is more than ready to be rid of winter.  

I love the scrabble tiles that the store uses to identify the genres.  

You might as well get a tote bag and fill it.  

Neat display of new arrivals.  

Unique prints found in independent bookstores.  

Good assortment of literary-themed coffee mugs.  

Incredible art-work done by a local artist that brings a children's story to life.  My picture doesn't do it justice.  

Literary-themed t-shirts.  

You'll find this happy place in the children's section.  

Partial view of the children's section.  

Another view of the children's section.  

I love these indestructible books for babies.  

A couple of great places to sit and sample a book.  

You'll find these greeting cards toward the back of the store.  

This is an absolutely lovely room to lounge in with a book, with friends, or with a book club.  Very well furnished and comfortable.  Frequent readers may recognize the celebrity enjoying the comfortable room (I think she might've dozed off!  How's that for an endorsement!)  Yes, that's my mom.  

A few more of the sidelines available.  

Looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.  

If you're in Monticello, you need to become a regular and take advantage of this.  

With Nicole, the fine owner at Hatfield Book Co.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, April 19, 2019

Old Book Barn - Forsyth, IL

The Old Book Barn, Forsyth, IL
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I actually tried to visit the Old Book Barn two months ago but that was during the polar vortex/blizzard season and I had to postpone.  If I had known what I was going to find, I would've put on the thermals, hitched up the sled dogs, and mushed my way here.  This incredible store was worth the wait and was frankly overwhelming in the small town of Forsyth, IL.  But as Lori, one of the booksellers told me, this store has become a destination.  Clearly the word is starting to get out and I'm not surprised in the least to hear that this is a destination for book lovers.

What I am surprised about is that it has taken people so long to discover it.  The Old Book Barn began way back in 1981 and was located in an actual barn.  An old picture even shows hay in the store.  It's been in its current location though since 1985, a remarkable run for any bookstore.  According to Lori, the secret to success is a strong core of regulars (a characteristic shared by many successful bookstores) along with many tourists and travelers who are recently discovering this gem.  From my observations, I would add that Lori, along with owner Cheryl H. and husband Larry are a huge part of the store's success.  And as Lori told me, I can gladly share that things are going very well, especially the last couple of years.

The Old Book Barn offers new and used books but the bulk of their business is done with used books.  They offer customers store credit for the books they bring in that are in good condition.  The store also offers vintage and collectibles, available in-store or online.  This indie stretches 200,000+ books out in a warehouse building of over 14,000 square feet.  The organization, multiple displays, decor, and upkeep are impressive for a store this size.

Cheryl is the store's 3rd owner and has been here for over 20 years.  Her husband Larry is the self-proclaimed maintenance man and his finger print is all over this place from decorations, decor, and light fixtures, to roof repair.  Every bookstore could use a guy like this.  And Lori is one of the rock star booksellers who is responsible for the many creative table displays and book art seen throughout the store.  Along with the rest of the staff, these people are the heart and soul of the Old Book Barn.

Forsyth is located approximately equidistance between Chicago and St. Louis.  The next time you're traveling big city to big city, make this place your TRUE destination.  A bookstore that's now a destination and a national treasure.  Kudos Old Book Barn.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  The Boy Who Saw True, Anonymous, with a forward by Cyril Scott.  Originally published in 1953.  The fascinating story of a boy living in England in the late 1800s who was clairvoyant and able to see spirits and auras.  He kept a diary, recording his many experiences which was very interesting to read.  We don't know the boy's name and he stipulated that the diary couldn't be published until years after his death.  It took me awhile to get use to the style of writing, but once I did this was very enjoyable.  Exactly the fun kind of book to look for in a used book store.  Recommended.    

CURRENTLY READING:  The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah.

Exterior view of a store that has 14,000 butt kickin' square feet of books.  And keep in mind, this is only a partial view of the exterior. 

Booksellers across the country have kindly welcomed me enthusiastically but I've never had a welcome sign!

This tiny little bargain book cart is a speck of dust compared to what you'll see when you get inside.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Beyond this view, the store expands far to the right and left as well as straight ahead.  

Hand bags for sale just inside the front door.  

One of the many decorative table displays in the store.  Notice the book art on the table, a nice touch done by Lori.  

Just inside the front entrance you'll see the counter where you'll bring in your used books for trade.  

Grab bag of books for a great price.  This is kind of like the blind date with a book promotions offered in many bookstores.  
If you don't want the grab bag, take a book on a blind date.  

Lots of lanterns near the checkout area.  This is an area that Larry keeps decorated relevant to the season.  

A few items of local and regional interest.  
Many bookstores have shopping baskets, few have shopping carts.    

There are not many sidelines here, but they do offer an assortment of greeting cards.  

Nora Roberts and J. D. Robb fans will love this display.  

Take a few steps into the store, look to the right, and this is your view  

Take a few steps into the store, look to the left, and this is your view.  

The children's section is right in the middle of the store.  

This is a picture of the original Old Book Barn.  It was really a barn, notice the hay in the hay loft.  

Creative table displays can be found everywhere.  

One of the many genre specific book nooks.  

I think the decor throughout the store is fabulous. 

Don't bring in your stinkers.  

Countless shelves and aisles like this.  

Empty shelves in some bookstores could be a bad sign.  In The Old Book Barn I take this as a good sign.  Room for more books!
Your typical Stephen King fan. 

The Abraham Lincoln and Civil War genres are strong.  

Lots of genre specific book rooms.  

Another strong section of the store.  

The cookbooks were a strong section, but honestly, they have any genre you want here.  

Vintage book room that also has vintage sheet music.  

There are four store cats here but I can only confirm one with this visual.  Keep your eyes open for Molly and the others.  

Some of Lori's wonderful book art.  You can find it throughout the store.  

Above the entrance to the western room.  

The store also offers CDs and DVDs.  

At The Old Book Barn, you can do this season year round. 

With Larry in the center and Lori on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at The Old Book Barn.  Thanks for a great visit. 

I didn't think I was going to meet Cheryl, the owner, on the day of my visit but I was very happy to meet her when she came in just as I was getting ready to leave.