Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dog Eared Books - Ames, IA


Dog Eared Books, Ames, IA

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Finally!  Way to go Ames!  for the past several years I've ALWAYS wondered why the heck Ames, IA didn't have an independent bookstore.  Medium-sized town, large university (Iowa State University), near Des Moines, but no indie.  Co-owners Ellyn G. and Amanda L. saw the same deficiency I did and they rectified it.  They didn't just barely "rectify" it either, they hit it way out of the frickin' ballpark.  I've followed Dog Eared ever since they opened a little over a year ago (congrats to another pandemic baby) and now I'VE finally had the experience you only get from a wonderful bookstore visit staffed by bookseller all-stars.  An afternoon enjoying the company of fantatsic bookstore people in an incredibly creative space worthy of awards (my pictures won't do it justice), browsing a space of well-organized books and sidelines, the option of enjoying a beverage and sitting leisurely in the cafe, and the comfort offered from a pet store dog that lives up to her name, Lovie.  Before opening this store, Ellyn and Amanda visited other indies for ideas and suggestions.  Those tables are going to turn and I can GUARANTEE that Dog Eared Books is already now that store that future bookstore owners will visit to see how it's done.  Well done, ladies.

The artistry of the interior is stunning, from the mural to the neon lighting, to the smaller effects around the store.  The large one-level space has a perfect location on Main St. downtown and is filled with mostly new books, some used, and a variety of sidelines.  I was really happy to hear that the store is doing very well primarily due to the sales of books, something not always true in bookstores with various sidelines.  There is a comfy and cozy furnished loft space available for group reservations and events.  The store is enjoying enough events to have an events coordinator and they also have 9 or 10 book clubs.  They are partnering with some university professors and departments and gradually hope to expand that relationship.

I knew I was going to be impressed but I was overwhelmed.  Readers, in time you can expect to see some national recognition for this store.  As Ellyn told me, they wanted to offer more than a bookstore, they wanted to offer something you can't get online, an experience.  Mission accomplished.  If you're anywhere near Ames, IA, waste no time in getting to this terrific new bookstore maintained and sustained by equally terrific people.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom At The End of The Civil War, Elizabeth R. Varon. For the Civil War buffs, this is a must read about the surrender of Lee to Grant in the small village of Appotmattox Court House.  Meticulously researched and covers the chronology prior to the surrender and then the aftermath including Lincoln's assassination and the plight of all Americans trying to recover from the devastating war years.  A good book, but it deserves careful reading. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Sooley, John Grisham. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Time Was Soft There, Jeremy Mercer.  The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles. 

View looking into the store from the front door on a very busy weekday afternoon. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  I love the neon lights signage throughout the store. 

If the morning was anything like the afternoon on the day of my visit, I can understand why Lovie was working on a nap!

The new releases display table is waiting for you just steps inside the store. 

Another view to the right of the front entrance and the staff recommendations. 

To the left after entering you'll find some great cafe seating. 

You can find bargains in almost every indie. 

A few of the sidelines available to the left after entering the store. 

The day I visited was a day of record heat.  This is a welcomed sight for customers. 

This is the mural on the length of wall behind the cafe.  You really need to see it in person to appreciate it.  This picture doesn't do it justice. 

A long wall of books on the right side of the store.  See all those cards hanging from the shelves?  Those are called "shelf-talkers" and they are more staff recommendations.  You'll find these in many indies. 

Travel books are a popular summer display. 

Display of store best sellers. 

If you're in the Ames area, check out the store book clubs.  They have many to choose from. 

Display table with various sidelines and books. 

The store has a strong dog theme. 

A few of the greeting cards available. 

This is the wall opposite the mural and it displays its own artwork. 

Look for these shelves to find a good used book. 

Partial view of the children's section. 

Shouldn't every Ames toddler have a Dog Eared onesie?

Another view of the children's area with theater seating. 

Toddlers are the perfect size to enter this magical room. 

Looking into the small room that is the perfect size for small readers. 

Bookstore owners will do anything to engage you in reading.  Like printing part of a book on the bathroom door. 

More creative artistry walking up the stairs to the loft. 

Overview of the loft, a beautiful room available for group reservations. 

Overview of the store from the upstairs loft. 

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

Stickers have been selling well in many indies. 

Make sure you ask Lovie to show you her favorite book!

Banned books are selling well everywhere.  Way to go, indies!

From L-R: me, Ellyn, Lovie, and Amanda, the fine folks you'll meet at Dog Eared Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Baine's Books & Coffee - Appomattox, VA


Baine's Books & Coffee, Appomattox, VA

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If you're a Civil War buff, sooner or later you'll probably pay a visit to Appomattox, VA to relive, read, and experience the history surrounding the end of the Civil War.  When you make this visit it will be an absolute must that you drop in and see Baine's Books & Coffee, right downtown on Main St.  Appomattox is a small town of approximately 1800 and this business is another part of the town's identity.  It is the perfect complement to the region's history and for those who come here on bus tours it should be part of the itinerary.  Clearly, owner Bryan B. has done a super job of maintaining the historical integrity of the store's space that really adds a lot for any customer's visit.

Baine's Books & Coffee has been in business for 17 years, a remarkable run in a town this size.  Obviously, the business is largely impacted by tourism.  But, as Bet, one of the staffers told me, she serves a large number or regulars in the cafe and can usually start on their drinks when they come through the door.  And you know the business is doing well when Bryan is able to open two more Baine's Books & Coffee stores in nearby Scottsville and Amherst.  Nicely done.

The cafe is a big part of the business offering coffee drinks, specialty drinks, and baked goods.  They also do a busy lunch service and as Bet told me, that's when the rush comes.  You'll love browsing books in a historical space, complete with creaking wood floors.  They offer some new but its mostly used books.  Bring in your good used books and you'll receive store credit for future use.  In addition to the books and cafe, the store has a real music vibe.  If you're a music fan, you'll see musical instruments in addition to music on vinyl and CDs.  They even have a weekly open mic night that usually features live music. 

I didn't get to meet Bryan on this day but meeting Bet was a highlight of my visit.  She was an absolute delight to meet and I enjoyed her wonderful conversation telling me about the store.  Sadly for Baine's, she'll be off to college soon but I'm certainly glad that my journey brought me to Baine's while she was still here.

Civil War buffs, history buffs, bookstore travelers, it's all here.  Make sure that you include Baine's Books & Coffee on your visit and enjoy the experience of a successful and long-running bookstore on your tour of this region.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

 JUST FINISHED:  The Authenticity Project, Clare Pooley.  This is a book that would be a great movie for the Hallmark channel.  A retired and widowed artist decides to write a few lines in a notebook, life advice and regrets, and then leaves it abandoned soon to be picked up by someone else who writes an entry in the notebook and leaves it abandoned.  And on it goes.  Kind of a traveling diary that eventually connects everyone who contributed leading to friendships, romances, and positive life changes. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom At The End of The Civil War, Elizabeth R. Varon. 

One of the easiest bookstores for me to find with this dominant signage on Main St. 

Historical storefront. 

A perfect display window. 

View looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance and a partial view of the cafe seating area. 

A timpani makes a good display table. 

Head to the right side of the store and let the browsing begin. 

A fraction of the Civil War books available. 

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

The guitar and banjo are here, all you need to bring is your talent. 

A great use for two bass drums (Of course, I never would've said this in my former life).  Not sure I've seen bass drum display tables. 

Looking for a classic?  They've got you covered. 

You can find southern literature throughout the store. 

Lots of music on vinyl to browse. 

Books and... SAXOPHONES!  Yes, for sale. 

A variety of baked items are available. 

Partial view of the children's area. 

Another angle of the children's area. 

Overview of the store's main floor looking from the back toward the front door. 

On your way up the stairs to the 2nd floor is a mezzanine level with this group room.  A nice space available by reservation. 

The mezzanine level. 

View looking into the 2nd level, the upstairs reading room.  This is a quiet space, no cell phone zone.  You can get some serious reading done here. 

Some great places to sit and browse, on the 2nd floor. 

Another overview of the upstairs reading room. 

Was there a marching band in the upstairs quiet room??

With Bet, one of the fine staffers you'll meet at Baine's Books & Coffee.  Thanks for a great visit.