Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Our Town Books - Jacksonville, IL


Our Town Books, Jacksonville, IL

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This is one of those stores you visit and you wonder how in the heck they do it.  How does a store like Our Town Books enjoy sustained success over a 10-year period given its location?  It's in a small town of approximately 18,000 surrounded by other small towns with no real metropolitan area nearby.  It's not a particularly booming tourist destination except for some Lincoln history buffs.  The store's location is on the downtown square, a decent but improving location thanks to downtown economic development.  Yet, this indie has had a 10 year run of success since its founding and has even survived and flourished through the pandemic shut-down right up to the present day.  All the regular customers in Jacksonville could easily answer this question just as I can after one visit.  A knowledgeable, conversant, and welcoming owner with an equally friendly and knowledgeable bookseller. 

Jess G. is the store's 3rd owner and has been boosting its visibility and growth now for three years.  When you visit Our Town Books it feels like a Norman Rockwell painting.  A very comfy and cozy one-level, multiple room bookstore offering new and used books.  These books are shelved side by side on the shelves and you can identify the used ones by the gold dot on the spine.  There are a variety of interesting sidelines in the store but the most popular are the greeting cards, bookstore socks, journals, and puzzles.  The back room of the store is all children's and Jess said those books sell well for all ages.  Even though Jacksonville is a small town, the population includes many literary people.  The store gets customers from a couple of literary clubs, others from the communities of two local colleges, and all the other local regular customers.  Springfield, only a short distance away, doesn't have an indie like this and I would encourage anyone in that community to drive the short distance to his wonderful bookstore.

Most of all, I really enjoyed hearing from Jess one of the reasons they've survived the shut-down.  It's all because of something I learned long ago on this journey.  It's partly thanks to you, dear booksellers and owners, and your spirit of cooperative brotherhood and sisterhood with each other.  Your willingness to help and share your expertise with other indies and their owners, is the treasured characteristic of almost all that I've met.  Way to go, booksellers everywhere!  And for those in Jacksonville, continue your great support of this super bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  The Tie That Binds, Kent Haruf.  I highly recommend this author and have enjoyed every one of his books.  Like his others, this story takes place in the small fictional town of Holt, CO.  Hard work and rural living are a way of life for all who live here.  Two children live in the country and live a life of labor into adulthood.  The adult daughter ends up caring for their abusive and crippled father, holding them on the family property.  Story as told by their lifetime next door neighbor, Sanders Roscoe.  Outstanding.  Highly recommended. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath. 

Beautiful storefront. 

A perfect outdoor setting during nice weather. 

Classic display window. 

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  You've just entered a Norman Rockwell picture. 

Looking immediately to the left you can find a few of the sidelines. 

The store carries those quirky bookstore socks not only for adults but for children. 

Dover Activity Books in the front of the store would make great stocking stuffers. 

If I were a regular, this would be my happy spot. 

Attractive table of new releases and sidelines front and center. 

Wrapped books without the title given.  Similar to blind date with a book promotions found in many bookstores.  I love this!

This display will attract the kids. 

Leather bound classics

Go to the right of the store and find this hallway.  Browse your way through here or think of it as an expressway to the children's room. 

Independent bookstores are always active in community causes.  Way to go, Our Town. 

Overview of the middle room. 

A few of the books of local interest and/or by local authors found in the middle room. 

Hey, I found another happy spot. 

Looking into the children's room, the 3rd room in the store. 

A great place in the children's room to share a seat with a little reader and discover a book. 

Ever since these books came out, I have been a fan.  Books for babies and toddlers that are indestructible and drool proof. 

Overview looking from the back toward the front entrance. 

With Jess on the left and Susan on the right, two of the fine people you'll meet at Our Town Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

LaDeDa Books & Beans - Manitowoc, WI


LaDeDa Books & Beans, Manitowoc, WI

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I have been wanting to visit this indie for quite awhile and I'm happy to say I finally made it.  I've always wanted to come here because I absolutely love the name of the store, LaDeDa Books & Beans.  Owner Bev D. chose this name because in the movie Annie Hall, Diane Keaton would often repeat LaDeDa over and over, kind of a coping mechanism.  Bev did the same thing some 25 years ago when deciding to open a bookstore.  Those initial years of using the LaDeDa mantra have faded away and have been replaced by a successful business with a track record of longevity that would be the envy of other bookstores.  This is the kind of success that the bookstore world needs to hear, acknowledge, and recognize.  

So what's the secret here?  Easy.  A dynamite owner and a knowledgeable, friendly staffer are without question the answer.  Bev and Karen, respectively, are two of the best in the business.  I also think, ironically, that their location is outstanding.  Ironic because it is not surrounded by cafes, coffee shops, or other businesses.  Nothing, nada.  This is a TRUE neighborhood bookstore on the corner lot of a residential area.  As Bev said, they know the names of all the neighborhood dogs, the kids, and families.  The 10-year old me would've loved living in this neighborhood and would've rode here on his Western Auto bicycle to look at the books and grab some Twizzlers.  The fact that this store is successful is even more impressive because it's done it all by itself without any other businesses close by.

After the first 5 years in business, LaDeDa moved in to this space, a former florist shop, and has been here ever since.  The store offers all new books with a handful of used books located in the Flamingo Parlor.  They have a good variety of sidelines and the greeting cards and games sell especially well.  I thought the sidelines for kids were outstanding.  Half of the bookstore has comfortable furniture to enjoy as well as a few chairs and tables.  This area has some good flexibility to allow for store events, a great set-up.

 I judged this book by its cover, LaDeDa Books & Beans, and was not disappointed.  However, the store will soon change its name to LaDeDa Books, no more beans.  The state of Wisconsin has made it too strict to offer a simple cafe service.  You can name this bookstore anything you want but it won't change a a thing about the comfy, cozy atmosphere within or the wonderful people you'll meet there.  Pay a visit to this Manitowoc gem.  Go to an indie and by a book.  Bonsoir.

 JUST FINISHED:  Have You Seen Luis Velez?, Catherine Ryan Hyde.  The remarkable and heart-warming friendship that develops between a 90-years old blind widow and a biracial high school student who grows into the role of caregiver after finding out that this lady needs help.  Of course, the story is much, much more than this but I thoroughly enjoyed this and it will lift your spirits about the younger generation.  A wonderful story.  Highly recommended. 

CURRENTLY READING:  The Tie That Binds, Kent Haruf. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Address Unknown, Kathrine Kressmann Taylor.  Not purchased, but gifted:  The Christie Affair, Nina De Gramont.  The Last Confessions of Sylvia P., Lee Dravetz.  Thanks Bev.   

The beautiful neighborhood street is the setting where you'll find LaDeDa Books & Beans.  No strip mall, no traffic, no noise, no big buildings.  If you don't ride your bike here just park right on the street and walk the 20 or so steps into the store. 

This is the back of the store. 

I love this. 

One of the stores' exterior murals created by local students.  Excellent!

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  Can you name the masked celebrity that greets you?  Answers only accepted from those under 40 years old. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance. 

Flamingos are a thing here!

A display of some favorite book discussion titles, just to the right from the front entrance. 

This is a very versatile area that is easily converted into an events space.  Otherwise, take a seat and try-out a book. 
A few of the staff picks. 
A closer look at the celebrity that welcomes you to the store.  He's setting a good example with his mask. 

Display of Midwest Connections releases. 

This is a portion of the area that can be converted into the events space.  I love this  cozy "living room" of furniture and piano.  Piano recital, anyone?

Just a few of the games available. 

A portion of the children's area. 

Right this way to the Flamingo Parlor. 

But first, visual confirmation of something not available on Amazon. 

This is a uniquely decorated bathroom, still maintaining the bookstore theme. 

Who knew there was so much to see in a bathroom?!

Looking into the Flamingo Parlor. 

Just a few of the greeting cards available. 

Kids must absolutely love this place (lower right hand corner, please). 

A sideline I haven't noticed before.  I expect I'll see it again. 

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

With Karen on the left and Bev in the center, two of the fine people you'll meet at LaDeDa Books & Beans.  Thanks for a great visit.