Monday, August 12, 2013

Little, Privately-Owned, Independent Bookstores

I love bookstores. I have loved them since I was a kid. It’s time for book lovers, who also cherish the neighborhood bookstore, owned by people who know us and know what books we like, to unite and help save our neighborhood stores.
by Charlie Leck

The big (huge, gigantic Barnes & Noble bookstores are in trouble. The mega-gigantic bookseller, Amazon, is crushing them. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the fight. I’m much more interested in the impending destruction of the neighborhood, independent bookstore. That concerns me. Let Amazon fight it out with the big, corporate bookstore businesses. We who love our little bookstores have got to do something.

Aren’t small, cozy bookstores wonderful? Boy, we had a beauty here, near our home, for a long, long time and now its moved from its spectacular location to another spot much less attractive and enjoyable and I’m saddened by the change. The wonderful store used to be on Lake Street in Wayzata, where one could look out the front window and gaze over Wayzata Bay on Lake Minnetonka. Connected to the store was a Caribou Coffee shop and one could purchase a latté and then look over books while sipping. I mean, it was a two or three times a week stop for me and I almost always picked up a book or two. It was also one of my favorite spots to take my grandkids and I always shopped there for holiday gifts.

The little Wayzata store was called the Bookcase. It’s the oldest independent bookstore in the entire Twin Cities region. Ben Case opened the original store (get it?). Gail See owned and operated it throughout the 70s and 80s. Gail was a wonder and it was always so delightful to talk to her about what I was reading and why. She really knew her books and she knew how to hire just the right kind of personnel for our little town. Peggy Burnet owned it during the 90s and Peggy was just as terrific as Gail. I loved chatting with her. I saw her at a swimming hole a few weeks ago. She was there with her grandkids and I with mine. And, I just sent an email off to her today, telling her about a really interesting story in the New York Times about independent books stores that have taken to raising money from donations by their customers in order “to stay afloat.” Here a link to the article if you’re interested. It’s an interesting read and very intriguing.

Charlie Leonard owns the Bookcase nowadays. I’ve never gotten to know him very well. Even though he seems like a really nice guy, he’s not as outgoing and chatty as his two predecessors at the store. I’d make donations, however, to keep the store open. It’s in a less attractive location now. It’s still on Lake Street, but it’s to the east a few blocks and it doesn’t have a view of the lake and there is no connecting coffee shop. It’s dimly lit and not as pretty and comfortable as the other store was. I’m told that the rent is only about one-third of what it was at the old location. The personnel there don’t seem to care as much when I walk in the door. I’m terribly ego-driven and that matters to me even though it probably shouldn’t. In truth, they wouldn’t even know my name and, until I pay my bill, they don’t even seem to want to. That’s not a good practice for an independent store. Their customers are their life blood. When Gail owned the store, she’d give me a call and tell me about a new book that she thought I’d like. I’d hop on over and buy a copy and she was almost always right. Both she and Peggy knew about my strange and idiosyncratic hobbies and they’d always chat with me about them as if they really cared.

There’s another nice, little and independent book store over in Excelsior. It’s called Excelsior Bay Books. I like it and have shifted most of my Christmas shopping to that store. It’s on Water Street, just a couple of blocks from the lake. The store personnel are very
knowledgeable about books and they make good recommendations. There are some comfortable chairs where one can spread out and do a little sampling of the merchandise before making one’s decisions. It’s become a tradition to pay a visit to that store with a large contingent of our family on the day after Thanksgiving each year. We crowd in and seem to take over the entire place. The four grandkids tag along and I’ll buy them each a book of their choice at the store. If it would help, I’d make a donation to this store also in order to keep in up and running.

I try to urge all my friends to shop for books in independent bookstores. I suppose such stores are a very endangered species in our current on-line, connected and electronic society, but I do dearly love them.

Do try to read the NY Times story. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

1 comment:

  1. I know how you feel. I will need to take a trip to Excelsior. The bookstore near Ridgedale is big and I do find what I need there, but the atmosphere doesn't do it for me. In Brainerd there is Cattail's bookstore - old, cramped and stocked to the brim with old and some new or local books. Love the smell of books and the coffee shop Cocoa Moon is very close. They do exchanges of books. You bring in what you are willing to part with and you get a credit or exchange to buy a book there.