Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Morgenstern's Books - Bloomington, IN


Morgenstern's Books, Bloomington, IN

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

Nailed it, absolutely nailed it!  Everything head to toe, left to right, up to down and every other comparison imaginable has been accomplished in the short 6 weeks of this store's existence.  My words to Helmut, one of the staffers, when I entered the store were "overwhelming."  This is another pandemic "baby," another of the many bookstores that opened during the pandemic.  I usually like to visit new bookstores after they've been open a lot longer than 6 weeks, giving them time to recognize trends and patterns.  But after seeing Morgenstern's Books, there's no question of enduring and sustained success.  And for co-owner Rick Morgenstern, what a success story for him and Bloomington.  

At one time, Morgenstern's Books was a long-running indie in Bloomington until 1996 when Rick was forced to close due to competition with the chain stores.  Fast forward to the pandemic when Rick decided to look for investors to co-own and open a new bookstore.  Enter husband/wife team of Sam and Todd E.  They became the couple who engaged their imagination during the shut down and decided this was their next chapter in addition to their current jobs in the medical profession.  The results are in the pictures below and they hardly do the store justice (so you'll have to visit in person of course!).  I dare say that regular customers of the former Morgenstern's will see no resemblance to the former store.

How did they nail it?  A very large, roomy interior offering all new books and a plethora of sidelines.  Lots of large windows letting in natural light combines with excellent interior lighting including Moravian Stars (nice touch, Rick).  The store has a large and attractive cafe space with a generous menu.   Many tables for seating, inside and out, can accommodate dozens of customers.  Already the store is deep into an active events schedule.  Brittany is doing a great job with the sidelines including greeting cards, "out-of-print" merch like totes and shirts, and Morgenstern's Books swag to name a few.  There are also a variety of items created by local artisans.  The children's area is a spacious and attractive section that kids will love.  Best of all, whoever does the hiring here should get the employee-of-the-month parking spot for people like Helmut, Jenna, Brittany, Eric, and others I met who were all fantastic.  What a team!

I'm not sure Rick could have envisioned this back in 1996.  If I were walking into this space I'd have to pinch myself everyday to make sure I wasn't dreaming.  Hey Bloomington, you need to wake up and smell the coffee and find your way to this place.  Carve out half a day in your schedule to sip a coffee, browse books, and enjoy the all-star cast of people who work there for a memorable bookstore experience.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.   

JUST FINISHED:  The Bridge, Karen Kingsbury.  Loosely based on the story of Landmark Booksellers in Franklin, TN.  The Bridge bookstore has a way of uniting people, rescuing people, and making lives worth living.  Even for owners Charlie and Donna.  Independent bookstores have a way of uniting and helping so many people and this is that story.  And as with many bookstores, the threat of closure looms.  Bookstore employees would enjoy this book. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Shaking The Gates Of Hell, John Archibald. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Girl Who Drank The Moon, Kelly Barnhill.  Jesus And The Disinherited, Howard Thurman.  A Morgenstern's Books t-shirt.       

This bookstore sign is like one you see at an interstate exit, large and high.  I love it. 

Front door entrance from a large and spacious parking lot.  The store was formerly a Pier One Imports. 

Gorgeous setting looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance. 

I recently learned that book recommendations on tiktok are a thing.  #oldschool

For Spanish-speaking customers, a great display near the front entrance. 

I always enjoy the staff recommendation displays. 

Table display of new paperback fiction. 

Entering store and moving straight ahead, to the left you'll find a table display of non-fiction and shelf-displayed non-fiction.  Directly across from this to the right is an identical set-up for fiction.  Easy peasy. 

Beautiful table display separating the recent non-fiction on the left and the recent fiction on the right. 

The indie-bound best sellers display. 

I didn't get to try out this chair but man does it look comfy.  Grab a seat and grab a book. 

One of the many book nooks and another great place to sit and sample a book. 

Bring your bookclub here.  If the table and chairs are taken, go get a seat in the cafe. 

Partial view of the children's section. 

Another view of the children's section. 

Good luck finding these on Amazon. 

Go all the way to the other end of this book aisle and you'll be in the cafe. 

Timely and relevant. 

Very nice sitting near the cafe. 

Overview of the beautiful cafe area. 

If it's a nice day check out the seating on the deck. 

Large message board with menu on the one side and events calendar on the other. 

Large selection of scents and candles. 

A few of the magazines offered, near the cafe. 

Customers will find many items created locally.  

The store carries a wide variety of t-shirts and totes. 

A few of the greeting cards available. 

With Rick on the left and Sam on the right displaying the Indie Bob Spot travel journal, two of the fine people you'll meet at Morgenstern's Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Harper's Books - Lebanon, TN

Harper's Books, Lebanon, TN

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

This store is a true success story of resilience, perseverance, and overcoming multiple adversities that would have wiped out other bookstores.  Many indies had to bear up through a debilitating pandemic but Harper's Books had a little bit more than just that.  Before the pandemic took off, Lebanon and Harper's had to recover and survive a tornado.  Then the real back-breaker was a flood 5 months ago that essentially shut down the store.  Eight inches of water throughout the store destroying books and shelving.  The woodwork flooring had to be ripped out, four industrial-sized dehumidifiers were brought in and owner Rob K., his sympathetic landlord, and a core of regular customers from the community fought back.  Closed for over two months with no sales or income, they rallied.  The Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC) came through with a grant to provide partial relief.  Another independent bookstore sent them a generous check (this does not surprise me at all).  A go-fund-me page was started.  With this help and that of countless others I don't even know about, Harper's Books is back on its feet, up and running since early June.  Bookstores who find themselves facing long odds on the path to success, take heart.  This store, owner, and community is your example.  If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere.  Way to go, Lebanon!

This heroic bookstore offers mostly used books with a few new.  There are some sidelines here including bookstore candles, 3-d bookmarks, and finger puppets for the kids to name a few but it is mostly about the books.  Pre-flood the store hosted 4 book clubs, one each week of the month.  They're on hold for the moment but Rob told me many of those members are anxious to resume.  The pictures below will be somewhat dated since the store will be receiving new shelves that will be arranged in the middle of the store.  I thought romance and mystery/thrillers were particularly strong genres here.  

Despite all of these setbacks, I could sense that Rob has an optimism which surely must be an important part of their successful recovery.  You wouldn't know he'd been through all of this with the enthusiasm he shared with me about the store and himself.  Congrats Rob.

Hey Lebanon, Harper's Books is open again and its time to get back there.  You got them through the hard part.  The easy part is your return to browsing books.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  All True Not a Lie In It, Alix Hawley.  Fictionalized biography of Daniel Boone but there are certainly threads of truth with some of the important people and places.  Travel with the American Frontiersman, other explorers like him, and his family through the wilderness and the challenge of overcoming hunger, sickness, Indians, freezing weather and everything else imaginable.  

CURRENTLY READING:  The Bridge, Karen Kingsbury.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Dakota, Martha Grimes.  

Survived and back open again!  Great window mural. 

View looking straight into the store from the front entrance. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance. 

Yes, you'll need this. 

A variety of tote bags available. 

Two great chairs in the front of the store to have a seat and sample a book. 

Many indies offer lithograph prints, or reproductions of books, to create works of art like this. 

I love this very bookish bookstore clock.   

Kids will love the finger puppets. 

New book bargains. 

Go to this wall on the left side of the store and start shopping. 

One for you and one for you!

A portion of the children's items in the back of the store. 

The side nook on the way to the back of the store. 

Lots of children's items in the back room. 

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

If you know any Rafael Sabatini fans, send them here. 

Send the Game Of Thrones fans here too. 

With Rob on the left, the fine owner at Harper's Books.  Thanks for a great visit.