Monday, May 31, 2021

Crow Bookshop - Burlington, VT

Crow Bookshop, Burlington, VT

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Good grief what are the odds?  After traveling half way across the country to beautiful Burlington, VT and the Crow Bookshop, I meet the only staffer on duty this day, Jackie.  She asked me where I'm from, I said Iowa.  She smiled through her mask (in disbelief because how many people come to Crow Bookshop from Iowa) and said, "Really?  I went to the University of Iowa."  Now it was MY turn to look incredulous and say, me too!  I continue to marvel at unexpected coincidences on an unbelievable journey.

Crow is a one-level store with two long rooms that offers new and used books.  The store also has many  vintage and collectible editions as well.  They've been around for approximately 25 years and when I asked Jackie what their secret was she said, for one, they have a fantastic location.  I couldn't agree more.  This indie is situated in downtown Burlington in a multi-block area blocked off from traffic making it part of a ped mall with multiple small businesses, shops, bars, and restaurants.  Know that when you visit here you will need to find nearby public parking to make the short walk to the bookstore.  This area is very reminiscent of downtown Boulder, CO which is organized much the same (and also has a great independent bookstore).

 The Crow Bookshop has survived the pandemic thanks to their online book orders and curbside service.  Their proximity to the University of Vermont is also a plus with customers from that community.  The store definitely has a college town bookstore vibe.  Other than some bookstore t-shirts and tote bags, there are no sidelines here.  Impressive for bookstores that can do this.

Jackie was wonderful to meet and visit with about the store.  She was the perfect Crow Bookshop ambassador (undoubtedly a result of her excellent education at the University of Iowa).  And the good news for you, readers, is that you can safely begin making those summer vacation plans.  When you do, don't overlook this historic New England town, home to a long running and iconic independent bookstore.  Look for the black crow silhouette.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens.  I'm late to this one but I can tell you all of its praise is merited for me because I absolutely loved it.  I thought the author's pacing and chronology were excellent.  A family lives in a shack of the marshes and lagoons on the coast of North Carolina but an abusive father eventually causes all of them to run away except the youngest child in the family, Kya.  How will she grow up, become educated, find a social life and so many other things.  But the story takes an even darker twist toward the end.  If you haven't read this one yet, go to a bookstore and get it in paperback.  Highly recommended.   

CURRENTLY READING:  Squeeze Me, Carl Hiaasen.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Throwback Special, Chris Bachelder.  My very own Crow Bookshop t-shirt. 


I was able to get a great outside picture without dodging traffic.  The Church St. address for Crow is closed to traffic and only open to pedestrians.  Great foot traffic for this store and all of the other businesses surrounding it. 
Almost there!
A very attractive window display. 

The entire store front is window space. 


This is the view you'll have when you open the door and look into the store.  To the right is the checkout counter, to the left is a cutout into the 2nd room. 
Looking to the right from the front entrance is the checkout counter.  Jackie is busy on the phone taking orders.                                               
Relevant display table front and center.  

A classic bookstore look.  Book aisle with old wooden floors and wooden shelves.     

To the left after entering you'll find the new fiction display.

A portion of the Native American and African American studies. 
A few of the books of local interest or by local authors. 
Staffers have their own slots for their staff picks. 
After entering the store, this is the way into the 2nd room on the left.  You'll find mostly children's books in this room.  The brickwork goes great with the old wooden floors. 
Overview of the 2nd room from the front of the store.

Staff picks in the children's section. 

You won't find many sidelines here but you WILL find Crow swag like these totes and t-shirts. 
A perfect spot to promote your book at a store event.  This is in the right rear of the main room.

Two great seats at the front of the store.  Available soon. 


Overview of this beautiful store looking from the back toward the front entrance. 

With Jackie, one of the fine booksellers you'll meet at the Crow Bookshop.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Thank You Books - Birmingham, AL

Thank You Books, Birmingham, AL

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Oh what a night, late December back in '63 SCREECH, uh make that 2019.  Doesn't really sound right, does it?  Maybe not to most of us but for the three co-owners of Thank You Books in Birmingham, the new lyrics resonate perfectly for them.  Unknown to each other before the bookstore (sound familiar Two Friends?), they were helped to discover each other and their common interest in starting a bookstore.  And what better time to open a bookstore than December 2019, just as the Coronavirus is beginning its incubation and subsequent rampage.  But open they did, out of the gate with a bang and judging by the weekday of my visit they won't need to look back or second guess their founding of this terrific new independent bookstore.  Congratulations Thank You Books!

Thank You Books has an excellent location in a shopping area surrounded by other small businesses.  The interioir is beautiful with lots of natural light from the large front windows and lots of decorative string lights throughout the store.  Even the floor is beautiful with hand-painted stars.  The space was formerly home to a vintage clothes store so it was well-cared for, making the transition to bookstore a little easier.

This indie offers all new books and I thought the depth and breadth of their inventory was excellent.  They offer a few sidelines including a variety of greeting cards and journals and some Thank You Books swag.  But as Elizabeth told me, their primary focus is definitely the books.  Like so may other bookstores, they are holding events via Zoom and are looking forward to having live events in the future.  If you can't make it to the store, consider purchasing your books through their website where their entire inventory is available.  And keep in mind, if they don't have it they can order it for you.

On this visit, I enjoyed meeting 66.6% of the ownership.  I didn't get to meet Laura but Kristen and Elizabeth were kind enough to talk to me a bit on a VERY busy day.  Clearly to me, this is one smart group of owners who are poised for a long, successful business.  If you're in the Birmingham area and haven't visited this newbie yet, pay them a visit and enjoy a fantastic bookstore with a knowledgeable and talented staff.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Known World, Edward P. Jones.  Historical fiction that takes us to a 19th century plantation in a fictional Virginia county.  An abundance of characters of both races, some good, some bad.  This slavery tale has a twist with a Black plantation owner who owns Black slaves.  And then an even further twist with a Black female plantation owner.  This is a dense read at times, one that you should be patient with and willing to take some time. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Where The Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens.  I know, I know.  I'm late to the party. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Shaking The Gates Of Hell, John Archibald.  All Things Cease to Appear, Elizabeth Brundage. 


Your invitation to enjoy this bookstore.


Abundant exterior window space. 


View looking into the store and to the right from the front entrance. 
An outstanding table display on the day of my visit. 


Wonderful display along the left wall just inside the store. 
Looking immediately to the right from the front entrance. 


The interior is "L" shaped so moving to the right after you enter, this is the view looking toward the back of the store. 


This beautiful wall of books will require hours of browsing.  Staff picks can be found throughout the store.   Look for those slips of paper randomly hanging from the shelves called "shelf talkers."
If you're writing a blog about bookstores, a variety of journals comes in handy. 
Sometimes the designs are on the ceiling and sometimes they're on the floor.  Nicely done, Thank You Books. 


If you've been putting off reading that classic, find these shelves and ask a bookseller for a recommendation. 


I love this room toward the back of the store.  Display table, reading nooks, shelves full, and covers displayed on top.  Super. 

Partial view of the children's area.  Very creative. 

Overview of the store looking back to front.


If you have a baby or a toddler and haven't seen these yet I think they're fantastic.  Drool proof and chew proof!  And they're washable. 
Very active virtual events schedule. 
If you're getting a gift, don't forget the card to go with it. 
I love the decorative string lights you can see throughout the store. 

With Kristen in the middle and Elizabeth on the right, two of the fine co-owners at Thank You Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Bookshelf - Huntsville, AL

The Bookshelf, Huntsville, AL

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When I visit a bookstore like The Bookshelf in Huntsville, AL, I'm usually curious to know what their secret to longevity is.  Carolyn P. has been the owner for about 8 years and the store has been serving the Huntsville area for about 50 years.  This means the store has survived the economy crash in 2008 and most recently the pandemic.  When I asked bookseller Eleanor T. what their secret to survival is she answered without a trace of hesitation, "we offer good service."  As she told me, if it's not in the store they can order it.  During the pandemic, customers didn't have to enter the store to pick up their book orders.  For the indies who have succeeded for numerous years, the "good service" claim is one of the common characteristics.  Well done, Bookshelf.

This one-level store with multiple book aisles offers almost all used books with a few new ones.  It is very neatly arranged and organized making browsing very easy.  The store offers almost exclusively fiction with the exception of a few non-fiction books in the classics section.  For those customers who bring books in, they'll receive store credit.  During the time of my visit, there were many regulars coming in to take advantage of this deal.  Additionally, The Bookshelf carries a good variety of jigsaw puzzles.  These have sold especially well here during the pandemic as well as at many other indies.  They were so popular that some of the manufacturers of jigsaw puzzles couldn't keep up with the demand.

I didn't get to meet Carolyn on this visit but did meet Eleanor who was the perfect bookseller and bookstore rep to visit with.  Friendly, conversant, and knowledgeable.  She is one of the "puzzle pieces" responsible for the store's continued success.

This store is on a good run and there's no reason it can't continue.  But continual customer support and patronage is critical.  Regular customers, keep it up and bring a friend on your next visit.  A great place to browse and enjoy a half-day visit, just like me.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Overstory, Richard Powers.  This book gets lots of positive reviews but I lost interest about halfway through.  Begins as a series of short stories, each one involves the theme of a tree and how it impacted a family or a person.  Bottom line is there's more to a tree than meets the eye.  The author is definitely talented, but maybe over my head at times. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Known World, Edward P. Jones. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Mississippi Trial, 1955, Chris Crowe.  Dangerous Shadows, Dee Henderson. 

A beautiful view any book lover enjoys.  Looking into The Bookshelf from the front entrance. 

If you like mystery and adventure, go no further than inside the front door and immediately left. 

You'll also find the check-out counter immediately to the left with two solved jigsaw puzzles on the counter facing. 
Two great seats in the front of the store to sit and try out a book. 

This device in the front of the store will help you keep track of your spending.

If you know any Stephen King fans, send them here. 
One of my favorite things to see, a long wall of books. 
Many bookstores have told me that jigsaw puzzles have sold incredibly well during the pandemic.  It's no different at The Bookshelf.  They had trouble keeping them in stock. 

Only a few of the Julie Quinn books available. 

Book covers that became jigsaw puzzles.  

Partial view of the kid's area. 
These are only a few of the sale books here.  If you're on a budget, check these out. 
Overview of the store looking from the rear toward the front entrance. 
If you've never read this classic, it is a must read.  I know where you can get a copy. 
Check out the new arrivals near the front of the store and to the right after entering. 
Many readers enjoy audio books and you'll find an assortment here. 
Hey Outlander fans, pick up your next one here. 
No grocery carts here so maybe consider two baskets?!

With Eleanor, one of the fine booksellers you'll meet at The Bookshelf.  Thanks for a great visit.