Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery - Chicago, IL

Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, Chicago IL
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Community building.  That's one of the things owner Danielle M. told me to describe the space and business of Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery in Chicago.  An all-inclusive space where all are welcome.  Come to a class about publishing.  Come to the bookclub even if you haven't read the book.  Bring a young child to the story time.  Come to a black movie event and BYOE (bring your own everything--blanket, pillow, snack, etc.).  The concept of community building is nothing new for many indies.  In fact, I think its one of the pillars in many of these stores.  But for this bookstore in Chicago, it takes on an even more important role of community support for many who are looking for a welcoming space with welcoming people.

Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery has been open for about 6 months and it is one of the country's few black female-owned bookstores.  The strength of this store is African-American authors and interests but they also have many other genres and authors.  They have a very comfortable reading room behind the check-out counter and a cozy children's room behind that.  The store offers mostly new books with no sidelines.  Many of the beautiful murals throughout the store are by Chicago graffiti artists.  The store's other strength is the gallery of art displayed in the basement.  These works are done by local black artists and are available for purchase.  Semicolon offers an artist in residency space and as Danielle told me, this will be a huge help for someone since many of these local artists are homeless.

I'm happy to say that in their short 6 months, things are going really well.  In this short time, they're already ahead of the curve for events and activities.  The customer base is strongly black women and white millennials (I became an exception to those categories!).  Hopefully, this blurb will reach the eyes of some black men who will pay the store a visit.

There are some out there who will choose not to visit this bookstore because it is owned  by a strong, intelligent black woman.  For these people, you could not be making a bigger mistake.  You will not find nicer, more welcoming people than Danielle, events coordinator Brittany, and their staff.  Heck, I don't know who enjoyed this visit more, them or me!  These ladies are the best and Chicago needs to discover this place.  Danielle is an up and comer, in fact she's already in the process of opening a second completely different bookstore business.  If Chicago has some kind of "30 under 30" list, she needs to be on it.  So check this place out.  Even if you don't buy a book you'll have a blast meeting the wonderful people who work there.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  In Zanesville, Jo Ann Beard.  Story of two early adolescent awkward girls who endure the usual challenges of that age and all its drama.  This will take you back to 9th grade and the prospect of a public kiss, a high school football game, baby-sitting, and always being at odds with your mother.  I enjoyed this book but also think teachers of junior high students and women will especially enjoy it.  Recommended.

CURRENTLY READING:  Author In Chief, Craig Fehrman.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Death Of Innocence, Mamie Till-Mobley & Christopher Benson.  The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid.

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

Look to the right after entering and you'll see this impressive mural.  

All independent bookstores advise this.  

Very cool and so indie.  

Just inside the front entrance.  

Bargain table display near the front entrance.  

You can find a lot of great quotes posted in many bookstores.  

Display of black authors and interests.  

A long wall of books.  

Beautiful collage mural.  

Have a seat and try out a book.  

You can enjoy excellent mural artistry throughout the store.  

There is some great stuff here for 50% off.  

Words open books.  

Have a seat and read a zine.  

A few of the items offered that are self-published.  

Partial view of a nice reading room space, located behind the check-out counter.  Go through the doorway pictured and you'll be in the children's room.  

Brittany uses her talents as a former teacher to add her creativity to the reading room.  

Partial view of the children's room.  

Just a few of the influential African-American women in literature.  

So many bookstores strongly advocate for their local community.  Semicolon does it in a number of ways.  

This is the stairway down to the gallery.  Along the way you'll see some excellent graffiti art work...

...like this...

...and this.  

Partial view of the gallery.  

Another example of what you'll see in the gallery.  

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

I love this. 

With Brittany on the left and Danielle on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Monday, December 23, 2019

Lion's Mouth Bookstore - Green Bay, WI

Lion's Mouth Bookstore, Green Bay, WI
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Could there be a better recommendation for a bookstore than a beloved bookstore cat?  This isn't just any cat either.  Greta is a veteran bookstore cat but sadly she was laid off from her position at  The Reader's Loft  when owner Virginia retired and the store closed.  Lion's Mouth Bookstore opened a month ago in downtown Green Bay without the services of a bookstore cat.  Owner Amy M. knew Greta from her own bookstore days at The Reader's Loft so she brought her home to retire.  Greta was withdrawn and changed.  The retirement didn't work, she needed to be in a bookstore.  So Amy brought her to Lion's Mouth and it was like a fish back to water.  Simply, Greta needed a bookstore and she now lives 24/7 in her happy place.  Oh, how many of us envy Greta's life?!

Yes, I've met Amy and Greta previously at Reader's Loft.  Thankfully, Green Bay regained a wonderful bookstore when Amy decided to open Lion's Mouth.  It's easy to see reminders of Reader's Loft throughout the store from the dark brown shelving brought over from Reader's Loft to the great books offered to the friendly bookseller cat, Greta.  This new store though has a super location in downtown Green Bay on the ground level of a building with other businesses below the upper level apartment living.  Colin, one of the store booksellers, told me this has been great for business and even helped with the founding of a new bookclub.  And the nice thing here is many of the Reader's Loft customers have now come over to Lion's Mouth, including a bookclub.

Lion's Mouth offers new and used books along with a variety of sidelines including greeting cards, reusable straw kits, and skull sugar cubes (never seen these before!).  For customers who bring in books for trade the store offers store credit.

Along my journey, rarely do I get to meet staffers or owners more than once.  This was one of those unique opportunities where I enjoyed reacquainting myself with Amy and Greta (never have I met a bookstore cat twice).  These two along with Colin were wonderful to visit with and find out about this beautiful new store.

If you want to place a sure bet on a bookstore, put your money on Lion's Mouth.  An experienced and knowledgeable owner, along with a friendly bookseller, a personable cat, and a dynamite location means big things ahead for this new bookstore.  Reader's Loft customers fret no more, this is your new go-to.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  In Zanesville, Jo Ann Beard.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Lager Queen Of Minnesota, J. Ryan Stradal.  

Another exterior view.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Notice my BFF Greta taking a break on the couch.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  Greta still in position.  

View of the very cozy living room setting in the front of the store.  Greta stirs slightly.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  

A few of the sidelines available at the checkout counter.  

Greta on the move.  

Attractive display near the front of the store.  

You'll find most of the fiction along this wall on the right side of the store.  

Serious book customers will enjoy this section.  

If you look closely, you'll see the skull sugar cubes on the top and middle levels of this display.  

Ok, now seriously, how can you not visit this store and meet this beauty?  I've been to over 400 bookstores which means over 100 cats.  It is next to impossible to get a good picture.  I think this is probably my best cat picture to date along my journey.  Of course, Greta and I go way back.  Thanks Greta!

A few of the greeting cards available.  

Partial view of the children's section.  

The perfect chair to sit and read a book to a little one.  

Overview of the store looking from the back to the front.  

Just a few of the items of local and regional interest.  

Don't call yourself a Packer fan unless you own books like these.  

You'll need to pick this up at the checkout counter along with the book you get.  

These independent bookstore facts should be posted in some form in every bookstore.  

Just hangin with my BFF.  

With Amy, the fine owner at Lion's Mouth Bookstore.  Thanks for a great visit.