Monday, May 13, 2024

The Word House - Winona Lake, IN

The Word House, Winona Lake, IN

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Readers, what comes to mind for you when you think of an attic in an old house or building?  Dust, dead flies, cobwebs, and more are what comes to me.  What doesn’t come to mind is what I saw and experienced at The Word House.  This indie is located in an attic that was part of a train station.  If only I could’ve seen the before picture of this beautiful space before Sarah and friends went to work and gave it an incredible makeover.  Everything about this space sparkles.  New carpeting, an attractive paint job, stately columns, and excellent accent lighting have turned this old attic into a space worthy to live in.  My pictures below won't do it justice so that means you’ll just have to visit in person. 

Odin, a terrific bookstore dog. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after over 500 bookstore visits, it’s always trust the GPS.  This place can be tricky to find and you won’t notice it when you drive by because it is in a building that houses several businesses including the bookstore and the hip coffee shop below the bookstore, Three Crowns Coffee.  Once you find the bookstore, it’s like entering the technicolor part of Wizard of Oz.  Owner Sarah W. offers new and used books and all are on a store inventory.  I’m happy to say that everything is going well since opening 6 months ago.  She’s continually adding more events and she recently held a Taylor Swift listening party/event for her most recent album release.  What a great event idea for any indie.  The store offers a plethora of sidelines including puzzles and stickers as well as other items like unique earrings and something called Old Guy Wood, all created by local artists. 

Nobody will be able to visit The Word House without taking time to meet and greet Odin.  Like so many other bookstores I’ve visited that have a dog on staff, some people will come here simply to visit Odin, a perfectly happy and well-behaved book store ambassador. 

Best of all is the store name.  When Sarah was 12 and went to a writing camp, a teacher told her, don’t ever change your name.  You can do something with that.  She said that stuck with her and as the owner of this new bookstore, Sarah Wordhouse, had the perfect name to start this business that became The Word House (I’m glad her last name wasn’t Beertavern or something similar.  She couldn’t have pulled this off, but I digress).

If you’re in the Winona Lake/Warsaw area the tourists will soon discover this place.  Go now, beat the rush, and trust the GPS.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  Carrie, Stephen King.  I've read a few Stephen King books but am not a big follower of his stuff.  I decided I should read this one, his first and arguably one of his best.  The classic story of Carrie, a high school student with telekinetic powers.  She's bullied and usually the butt of all the jokes.  But at the high school prom the jokes go too far and Carrie's pushed to use her destructive powers to help her take revenge.  I never saw the movie but I thought the book was good.  Classic horror. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Hell's Princess, Harold Schechter. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Everything Is An Emergency, Jason Adam Katzenstein.  

This is the Word House entrance, disguised as a furniture depot.  Enter here and you’ll be in Three Crowns Coffee.  Grab a latte, and proceed up the stairs to a beautiful attic bookstore space.  

Directions so simple even I can follow them.  

When you get to the top of the steps, this is what you’ll see.  Xanadu!

View looking to the right as you enter.  Remember, this used to be an ugly duckling attic.  

Around to the left for this cozy setting.  

Partial view of the kid’s area.  Notice the tiny door in the wall.  A perfect space for little readers.  

Looking through the tiny door into the small space.  

Overview of the children's area. 

Nice display of seasonal books. 

Are you kidding me?  Books for 25¢.

Odin's office.  Every good bookseller needs a comfy nap space. 

Looking across the back of the store. 

Antique chandelier that adds to the beautiful store interior. 

Another comfy area to settle in with a book. 

Great table display of popular fantasy books. 

Some of the very cool sidelines created and offered by Olivia's.  Those candied hearts on the left are earrings. 

I don't think I've seen wood conditioner offered at any of my previous 500+ bookstore visits. 

Just a few of the unique earrings available. 

Lots of wonderful stickers to choose from. 

A few of the greeting cards available. 

This is the beautiful area rug you'll see at the top of the stairs as you enter the store. 

The perfect comfortable setting near the back of the store. 

Overview of the store looking toward the stairway that leads downstairs to the coffee shop and then the exit.  I love the columns seen pictured here. 

I always enjoy seeing what the book clubs are reading. 

With Sarah and Odin, the two fine folks you'll meet at The Word House.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Pete & Freddy’s Pages Aplenty - Mentone, IN

Pete & Freddy's Pages Aplenty, Mentone, IN

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Pete & Freddy’s Pages Aplenty is exactly the kind of bookstore and success story that needs to be heard.  In Mentone, IN, a town of approximately 1000, this indie has endured and succeeded for about 15 years.  There are so many towns much larger that have absolutely nothing.  I haven’t been to many communities smaller than Mentone that can support a bookstore, let alone one that could sustain for 15 years.  And the good news here is that the business has shown increased growth over the last several years.  The reason?  It starts with the owner Madelyne A. (known as Pete to her friends) the sole employee and custodian of a 50,000 book inventory, 50 books for every Mentone reader!

Originally, the name of the bookstore included Freddy, Pete’s sister.  But now it’s just Pete and the store’s growth and achievement is all because of her.  A large, one-level that includes a spacious side room warehouse.  The store offers a combination of new and used books along with multiple sidelines.  Pete has all the books on an inventory so she knows exactly what’s in the store.  New to the store is the option to purchase books online, something that I hope will grow in time.  Pete acquires her used books, as she told me, anywhere and everywhere.  Garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, and anywhere she travels she’s on the look out.  Unlike other used book stores, very few come from customers.  As I’ve learned EVERYWHERE, the stickers are selling very well but you’ll also find greeting cards, earrings, puzzles, candles, teas and much more.  For this indie, sidelines definitely sell better during the holiday season.  

So where do the customers come from?  Not too many from Mentone  but the store enjoys visits from many who live in nearby Rochester and other close towns, the surrounding Amish communities, and out-of-towners during the busy tourist season.

With Pete’s upbeat personality and years of experience, I'm not surprised by the store’s success in this small town.  Her hard work over the years is paying dividends and more people need to hear her story and the story of this remarkable and lasting bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.  

JUST FINISHED:  Neighbors and Other Stories, Diane Oliver.  The story here is not only the collection of excellent short stories but the author’s life, tragically cut short in 1966 at the age of 22 in a motorcycle accident.  She had just completed her MFA at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and was awarded her degree posthumously.  To think someone of her young age wrote these stories is incredible and one can only wonder what heights she would’ve reached in a promising career.  As a young Black woman, these stories are a reflection of her times in the 1950s and 60s, surviving Jim Crow and racism at every turn.  These are works of fiction but are probably snippets of her life and what she observed.  I thought this book was excellent.  

CURRENTLY READING:  Carrie, Stephen King.  

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  There's Always This Year, Hanif Abdurraqib.

Many visit Mentone in recognition of its renown as an egg capital.  I visit in recognition of its excellent independent bookstore. 

Beautiful storefront with ample display window space. 

You're almost there...

Looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Looking to the right from the front entrance. 

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  That door you see on the right in this picture leads to a very large warehouse storage room. 

Attractive table display in the main room. 

Display of unique books and sidelines. 

You'll find a variety of sideline items here but I like this display simply for the furniture piece that is used. 

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

This is the middle room as you head through the store toward the back. 

This is a colorful AND comfy looking chair. 

A nice section of gardening books for the spring season. 

In other words, the bathroom. 

Check out this beauty.  If you enlarge the photo, you'll notice a floor filled with pennys.  A bathroom worthy of George Costanza. 

Don't miss this long narrow side room filled with books. 

Wide variety of single-serving teas at the checkout counter. 

I love all the unique store fixtures I see in so many bookstores.  This stack of books makes the perfect lamp. 

Time to buy a book. 

Just below the checkout counter you can make your impulse buy of several stickers. 

A multitude of unique earrings.  If you see them here and you like them, get them!  They'll be hard to find elsewhere. 

Yes, they have unicorn poop!

View looking into the back room of the store. 

Overview of the children's area in the back room. 

The long main book aisle in the back room. 

A wonderful living room area in the back room. 

Make sure you take a look at the beautiful artwork of a local artist displayed in the back and available for purchase. 

Partial overview of the back room. 

What a great idea. 

This is like the "blind date with a book" promotion found in many bookstores.  The difference here is the beautiful wrapping paper used and a little more description. 

Here's an example.  It included three books and is suitable for middle grade/YA readers. 

With Pete, also known as Madelyne, the fine owner at Pete & Freddy's Pages Aplenty.  Thanks for a great visit.