Monday, October 24, 2022

Bettie's Pages - Lowell, MI


Bettie's Pages, Lowell, MI

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

What does a person with a career in banking do when they've had enough, they can't take it anymore, and they HAVE to find their life's passion?  Easy, they open a bookstore and they do it in a small Michigan town with a population of approximately 3700.  So Bettie's Pages landed here in February of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic and is now cruising along in a community that has gladly embraced this welcomed business.  

Owner Nicole L. does a great job curating the store's inventory with an emphasis on social justice, human rights, and lending a voice to diversity.  You'll find new and used books here, all shelved together.  The sidelines are numerous and as Nicole told me the stickers are hot.  They also carry a variety of headbands that are created locally and are very popular.  In their 2 1/2 short years they're very active with events, book clubs, children's story time and they have fostered a partnership with the library and local schools.  They're even going to partner for school book fairs.  Way to go, Lowell.

Surprisingly, the owner's name is not Bettie, its Nicole.  The store is named after a 1950s pin-up model, Bettie Page.  Nicole spun that into Bettie's Pages, which I think is very clever.  The theme continues with the two store cats, Bettie and Page.  

I was thrilled to hear their pandemic survival story.  They put together "boredom kits," kits with a book and other assorted items.  They were very successful with this and sold them all over the country.  The 2nd factor for their survival success was a VERY sympathetic landlord who didn't press and allowed plenty of flexibility for their monthly rent.  What a benefit for any indie that enjoys an arrangement like this.

But the thing I was most intrigued to hear about is that this historic building from the 1800s is also the home to two ghosts, a man and a woman.  The man who is very friendly and the woman who is more or less tolerant.  Books, ghosts, and cats; what more could you want? (Oh, maybe a mystery involving all of the above?  Here you go local authors!). 

If you're in Lowell and you're open and willing to learn this is the place to visit.  Enjoy a chat with Nicole, bookseller Shelby, Bettie and Page, and maybe an unexplained bump from a friendly ghost.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  Thunderstruck, Erik Larson.  I have thoroughly enjoyed everything I've read by this author and this one is no different.  He writes narrative non-fiction and this one is about the rise of Marconi and his challenges with establishing a wireless communication device.  That story intersects with the story of a mild-mannered doctor, Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, who is universally acknowledged as one of the nicest people you could meet.  Yet, after his boisterous and flamboyant wife goes missing, the whispers about foul play begin.  Highly recommended. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Maid, Stephanie Land. 

Creative storefront window displays. 

On a nice day you can start the browsing before you even enter the store. 

View looking into the beautiful interior from the front entrance. 

View looking to the right side of the store. 

This store offers community members many opportunities to get involved. 

You will have to ask Nicole whether this is Bettie or Page. 

On the left side of the store you'll find several book nooks like this one. 

I cannot believe how popular stickers are in the many indies I've visited. 

Makes sense to me. 

The store offers a wide variety of sidelines. 

Lots of gift ideas for non readers. 

Very popular locally created headbands. 

Head toward the back of the store to see more sidelines like the goofy socks. 

A few of the greeting cards available. 

Lots of display spaces with this. 
The perfect place to sample a book. 

Toward the back of the store and on the left. 

When I visit bookstores with cats, its usually challenging to get a good picture. 

This remarkable mural can be found in the children's room.  Absolutely beautiful. 

An overview of the children's section. 

Overview of the store looking from the back and through a couple of rooms to the front entrance. 

With Nicole, the fine owner at Bettie's Pages.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Schuler Books & Music - Grand Rapids, MI

Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

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

Well, where do I start?  As bookseller Tabetha told me, she loves to see the reaction of people who visit the store for the first time.  The first thought that sprang to mind when I drove by was a one word description.  Behemoth!  Large parking lot, not part of a strip mall, a massive, stand alone retailer.  If you think it is impressive from the outside, wait until you enter.  A one-word adjective that my regular followers know I don't throw around lightly, overwhelming.  It resembles a large chain store, but it is definitely an independent bookstore, just MUCH larger.  As store manager Lauren told me, they're very much independent and are allowed a freedom of creativity in presenting the store, the sidelines they offer, and their numerous displays.  No orders from corporate for this business.  

Schuler's just celebrated its 40th anniversary and clearly they have been 40 successful years and in my opinion a bright future ahead.  If you can't find something here for yourself and/or someone else you're not trying.  They offer both new and used books, shelved separately and you can really find some good bargains.  All the used books are cataloged so they know what they have.  If you want to bring your books to the store you'll have to make an appointment.  In return, you'll receive in-store credit or cash value.  As for the sidelines, it would be a shorter list if I told you what they don't have.  Gift items galore, goofy socks, candles, winter accessories, ear buds, music on vinyl, stickers all over the place, and a line of Baggallini.  And this is just the tip of the sidelines iceberg.  As Lauren told me, this place is one-stop shopping which is why she enjoys the holiday season so much and they have such good business during that time of year.  Despite all this and an incredible cafe, the books remain the prime focus here.

This is an independent bookstore that enjoys two other Michigan locations and a third on the way.  The large main floor has an equal sized lower level that includes warehouse space and an assortment of offices.  Counting the cafe, booksellers, and lower level offices, this indie employs 70ish employees at this site alone.

But it doesn't matter how big the store is, Lauren and the staff are just as friendly as any other indie you visit.  This brief blurb and pictures won't capture the true enormity and personal attention of this wonderful store so you will have to visit and find out for yourself.  Schuler's, here's to another 40 years and hoping you never lose sight of your independent bookstore roots.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Thunderstruck, Erik Larson. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  You're An Animal, Viskovitz.  Alessandro Boffa.  Are You Listening, Tillie Walden.  


The enormity of the store's space is astounding.  And they've got the parking lot to handle the customers too.

Outside seating for the cafe on nice days. 

The store's entryway is crammed full of inventory including some terrific bargain buys. 

Both sides of the entryway are packed. 

Cue the heavenly chorus as you look into the store from the front entrance.  If you've never been here before, count on being overwhelmed and indecisive about where to begin. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  Go this direction as far as you can and you can start your day in the cafe. 

Schuler swag display table just inside the store. 

As you head to the right you come across cafe seating before you even get to the cafe.  Fantastic!

Looking into the spacious main seating area of the cafe. 

I haven't heard of Schleich but if you have a kid who loves animals, it looks like they're all here. 

Who knew ukuleles came in so many colors!

Calendars for all interests and activities. 

Just like everything else, volumes of journals to suit any style. 

Wide variety of magazines. 

If knitting is your thing they have you covered. 

Just a few of the banned books offered. 

The store offers new and used books.  Ask about their policy for taking your used books. 

A fraction of the greeting cards available. 

Ask Lauren about her favorite book and she'll show you this quote from The Book Thief.  Highly recommended if you haven't read it yet. 

An obvious award-winning store. 

I can't believe all the socks they have in the store and these are only a few. 

Get your socks and then get your winter slippers.  Incredible. 

The few stores I've been to that offer a line of Baggallini have told me that these sell well. 

I always enjoy discovering what the local reading groups and book clubs are reading. 

Yes please. 

Overview of the children's area. 

Whoever your team is, they've got you covered.

Lots of gift ideas. 

Unbelievable variety of stickers. 

Overview of a large area of used fiction. 

Staff picks can be found throughout the store. 

The music portion of the business has transitioned over time.  This is a portion of the music on vinyl. 

Is there no end to the sidelines?!

A wide open area for events. 

The store has many options for events.  This room is in the back of the store. 

Of course they have games. 

Head to the back left of the store and enjoy this calm area to read and browse. 

Good grief they even carry ear buds.  I can see why Lauren calls this bookstore a one-stop shopping trip.  They have something for everyone. 

One of the many book nooks on the left side of the store. 

More staff picks.  So impressive. 

With Lauren, the fine manager at Schuler Books & Music.  Thanks for a great visit.