Monday, November 20, 2023

Reading in Public Bookstore & Cafe - West Des Moines, IA

Reading in Public Bookstore & Cafe, West Des Moines, IA

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I’ve been following this bookstore ever since it opened 11 months ago and held back from visiting as long as I could.  What I saw and experienced was exactly what I enjoy at every bookstore.  It’s one thing to see pictures of this indie online but it’s totally different to see this beautifully created space in person.  For people who know owner Linzi M., it should be no surprise.  With her background in graphic design, her creative talent paired perfectly with a local architect to inspire an incredible bookstore space.  If there are  awards for this kind of thing, Reading in Public (RinP) should be considered.  And as I learned from my visit, the pictures below won’t do it justice.

RinP is located in the historic Valley Junction area of West Des Moines.  It has its own Main Street shopping district, a town within a town, making it an excellent location.  They offer all new books in a one-level space with excellent organization and neatness.  Everything here is pleasing to the eye and if this store were a homemade dessert I would say that the presentation is 5-star.  Additionally, you’ll find numerous sidelines that just seem to be a perfect fit for the store’s vibe.  Greeting cards, locally created earrings, candles, magnets, and stickers can all be found here.  The cafe service is an important part of the business offering specialty coffee drinks and bagels and as KeriAnn told me it sees its own set of regulars.  The store’s business has slowed down a bit in the fall season but the Valley Junction district enjoys many visitors during the summer tourist season.  If you can’t visit in person (first of all, this is a big mistake!), consider buying books online from the store’s website.  From its small  origins as a pop-up to its fully imagined brick and mortar, they now anxiously await their first holiday season.  Way to go Linzi!

I didn’t get to meet the leader of the band, but boy does she have a great group of rock stars to back her up and they are equally impressive to the beauty of the physical store.  Current store manager, Bethany, future store manager Lilly, booksellers KeriAnn, Leif, and Cat reinforce my belief in “Midwest nice” and will make your experience the perfect complement to the store’s charm.  Why would anyone shop online when you can visit a place like this.  

The greater Des Moines metro is slowly upping its presence as a destination for independent bookstores.  RinP is now a successful part of that scene.  If you’re in the Des Moines area, it’s time for you to discover this newbie and become a regular.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  The Drinker, Hans Fallada.  This novel is every bit as fascinating as the author's life.  Hans Fallada came to prominence in Germany during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s and was one of the few authors not to flee Nazi Germany.  He struggled with addiction and mental illness.  His writings are a reflection of the times in Germany.  The main character of this book is a version of the author and his downward spiral into alcoholism, a failing business, financial losses, a broken marriage, and incarceration.  Also check out his book, Every Man Dies Alone, which is my favorite of his works.  Recommended.  

CURRENTLY READING:  No Exit, Taylor Adams. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Sigh, Gone, Phuc Tran.   

Attractive storefront in a new and modern building.  

This sight and opportunity is a rarity for Iowa in November.  

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Head to the right side of the store to see this attractive display highlighting Native American Heritage Month. 

View looking to the left from the front entrance.  

Find the popular Fourth Wing books in the front of the store.  

Various stationery items directly to the left after entering the store.  

Along the shelves on both sides of the store, you’ll find these really cute little reading nooks.  What an excellent design.  

I don’t know much about earrings but I thought these were really cool.  Best of all, they’re created by a local artist.  If you see it in a bookstore and you like it, GET IT!  You’re unlikely to find it anywhere else.  

If you live in Des Moines and you’re shopping here, this is a must.  

Looking across the store. 

A few of the staff picks. 

Another angle and overview of the store from the front of the space.  Notice the lighting and light fixtures.  Very attractive.  

The cafe service and counter is located in the center of the store along with the checkout counter.  

A partial drink menu of what you can enjoy here.  

An example of the neat signage found for every genre throughout the store.  

What are you waiting for?  Grab a coffee, a book, and enjoy a seat in a wonderful space.  

Head over to the right side of the store and start your browsing.  Notice those cute reading nooks spaced along the wall.  

View looking into the children’s section.  

The children’s area includes places to sit for little readers or places for mom and dad to sit and read to the little readers.  

Visual confirmation of a bathroom but the winner here is the unique and artistic wallpaper.  

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

The iconic store name in lights on the back wall of the store.  

An absolutely gorgeous mural on the front wall.  I didn’t notice this until after I’d been in the store for awhile.  

A variety of stickers and magnets that you’ll see at the checkout counter.  

This picture shows another one of the really smart designs in the store.  Along both walls of shelves you’ll see these very neat storage spaces at the bottom of all the shelves.  I cannot overstate the time, work, and planning that went into this store.  

With Bethany in the center and Lilly on the right, two of the fine people I met at Reading in Public Bookstore & Cafe.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Friday, November 10, 2023

Outside of a Dog Books & Games - Vermillion, SD

Outside of a Dog Books & Games, Vermillion, SD

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Just when I thought my journey was the unique journey and adventure, I meet Mike P., the friendly owner at Outside of a Dog.  I was telling him a little bit about my bookstore visits as he patiently and quietly listened.  Then he told me about HIS journey.  Yes, he’s a bookstore owner but he and his wife also have their own goals of visiting EVERY county in the United States!  All of his visits are marked on a map and he’s covered 52% of the country’s counties.  Astounding (Indie Bob, you’ve got to up your game, the bar’s been raised, get crackin’!)!  I found this to be as astonishing as the wonderful bookstore he created.  

Outside of a Dog is just off the Main Street of downtown Vermillion and is off to a great start, open now for about two years.  Mike’s experience was in higher education, including Ohio State University, with a background in math and linguistics.  For many years though, his wife had put the bug in his ear about opening a bookstore.  So after time spent in Cincinnati, New York City, and Chicago, they found themselves in Vermillion, SD, a college town without a bookstore.  An indie was born and is now thriving with numerous regular customers and a tight and supportive community of customers from the University of South Dakota.  And as good as things are going, I’m optimistic that they are going to get better and better.  Way to go, Mike!

A happy bookseller waiting for you!

Outside of a Dog offers all new books in a medium sized two-room setting.  I thought the books curated for the store were outstanding.  The room to the right and rear of the store offers all varieties of games and hosts active game nights every other Saturday.  In addition to these events, they also host author events that can be held in the store and they also have options for hosting on campus.  Even though the entire space is on the smallish side, they have a good assortment of sidelines. 

But the clincher (as always) for me at this indie is the lovable bookstore dog and bookseller, Waldo.  He saw me coming before I entered and was standing behind the front door window enthusiastically wagging his tail, anxious to have me enter the store.  You will be unable to resist the power of Waldo.  After all, as Mike told me, he runs the show.  

A charming college town that has now added a terrific bookstore to a welcoming business community.  Pay this place a visit for a wonderful bookstore experience that you’ll never duplicate online.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir. 

CURRENLTY READING:  The Drinker, Hans Fallada.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  I’m Possible, Richard Antoine White.  The Language of Food, Dan Jurafsky.  A hip Outside of a Dog t-shirt.  


This is who enthusiasitcally waited to greet me as I approached the entrance.  This picture will not do justice to the happy look on Waldo's face and the wagging tail  What a joy he is!
Lots of window display space. 

Looking into the store from the front entrance. 
Looking toward the right from the front entrance.  That area in the rear right is the game room.  Games for sale in that area and also playing the games. 


One of Waldo's stations, right behind the front display window.  He's anxious for EVERYONE who visits. 

If you're wondering how the store got its name, this explains it perfectly. 


Yes, you need more books and more t-shirts.  Be like Indie Bob and get one of these hip t-shirts. 


This is the room at the left rear of the store. 


Excellent table display near the front of the store. 

Go to theses shelves directly to the left after entering and browse a variety of sidelines. 


Many bookstores carry a variety of book-themed candles like these. 


A few of the greeting cards available. 

Overview of the room at the rear left of the store. 


Have fun doing a puzzle AND discovering books that you ARE allowed to read


Twist my arm. 


Variety of sidelines displayed near the front entrance. 

Excellent display of new non-fiction. 


Some of the staff picks. 


An overview of the room to the right rear of the store. 


Throughout the store you'll see pictures of dogs from families who helped with the store's start-up funding. 


Display of new fiction. 

Some families helped with the store's start-up expenses by dedicating a bookshelf to a loved one.  I don't think I've seen this anywhere else.  Great idea. 

Just the thing to nibble while enjoying your book.

Mike told me that hockey romance is a genre.  Who knew?

One of the perks of Waldo's employment is being allowed to take numerous breaks. 

With Mike on the left, the fine owner at Outside of a Dog Books & Gifts.  Thanks for a great visit.