NOVEMBER 28, 2011 8:05AM

Your favorite indie book store

Rate: 8 Flag

This morning, we ran a piece by Laura Miller celebrating the wonders of independent bookstores. Squeezed first by big box stores like Barnes and Noble and later by online retailers like Amazon, these beloved neighborhood staples are a dying breed. We'd like to draw more attention to these fantastic local shops by featuring your favorites. Is there a great independent bookstore in your area? Tell us about it!

Tag your entries "Declaration of Independents." Include a picture of the store, its address and 200-300 words on what makes it great.  We'll feature our favorites on the cover of Open Salon and we're hoping to cross-post some onto Salon as well. Please note by using the tag "Declaration of Independents," you are giving us permission to cross-post your piece on Salon. 

 UPDATE: Check out the fantastic slideshow of American independent bookstores we ran on Salon last night. We've been thrilled by the fantastic response, and we're hoping to feature another batch of bookstores in a second slideshow next week.

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I'd better write fast before it too, closes...
A vanishing breed. I look forward to seeing some of these.

I think this idea is fabu.

My favorite independent book shop in the city was Books of Wonder. I used to buy boxes of books there when I first started work at Scholastic. I would go back to my office and write up memos to Ellie Berger and the editorial director of my division so that we could acquire the titles.

Ellie used to joke that I had the magic touch. Whichever titles I recommended would always sell well. I think we all had very similar tastes in children's books then. And we were so in sync that she paid me the compliment of pushing my titles through without taking them to our acquisitions meetings.

That is not to say that I didn't have a blast during acquisitions meetings. Siting next to Barbara Marcus in those meetings was always great fun. She is so, so sharp and witty and has the best business sense I had ever seen in the children's book industry.

Whoops! That should say sitting. Where is my editor? :)
For those who may be somewhat unfamiliar with the process, at that time Scholastic pursued reprint rights for those titles I recommended for acquisition. Back then I worked in what we called the Book Group in the days right before Scholastic went into the business of trade publishing. When our divisions were established with Dick Robinson, I worked as an editor with Gare, the Editorial Director, in the newly created Instructional Materials Division.
If there's one near me, I hope they're hiring. And Joan, your comment made me laugh, in a way.
Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is one of the best bookstores in the country. Reasons I love this store:

1. many, many events - nearly every night there is an author reading or book club. They use social media - a blog and an email newsletter - expertly, keeping me informed and feeling like a part of their community.

2. friendly, smart staff, including and especially the owner, Daniel Goldin, who makes it a point to know customer's names and takes the time to talk. The shelves of books recommended by the staff has led me to many happy reading discoveries.

3. I have found so many books here that I wouldn't have known about otherwise - they do a great job of balancing the essentials and the mainstream with more obscure titles.

4. a comfortable place - places to sit, and the layout of the store is great for hanging out and browsing for long periods.

5. great, expansive children's and young adults sections.

6. this store rushed in to fill the gap left by the exit of Harry W. Schwartz bookstores, which had been in the city since 1927. Without Boswell Book Company, it's not an exaggeration to say that the quality of life in Milwaukee would be radically diminished.
Emily, please see this article on Jackson, Mississippi's Lemuria Bookstore, in business for 36 years!
Saturn Books in Gaylord, Michigan. They have all sorts of events (most of which are free), they routinely special order books for customers, if you are a regular customer you can sometimes purchase whatever is coming out several days before the official release date, and they simply cannot be beaten when it comes to educational resources.

On more than one occasion I have asked them to hunt me down "out of print" books and within just a few days they had them in the store for me to pick up. On more than one occasion I have asked them to special order a book they wouldn't normally carry ("The First Americans" Series of books) and it's been no problem. They don't object if you wander through with coffee - matter of fact they offer free coffee to browsers.

They carry everything you can imagine in three stories of books and I can't walk through the door with less than 4 hours to spend because I KNOW I am going to find a chair in a quiet corner and curl up with a few books I want to peruse whilst I make up my mind about purchasing. It's the one store in town I would love to be locked into alone for several days... or maybe weeks. :D
I’ve loved Buttonwood Books since long before I had dreams of seeing my published work on its shelves. In the coastal town of Cohasset just twenty miles south of Boston, where greater Boston Harbor ends and Massachusetts Bay begins, the store was originally tucked amidst a collection of specialty stores with quaint names and brick walkways.

I took my children to the store often to browse books, meet guest authors, and listen to storytime, while I gabbed with knowledgeable staff about books we’d read and loved. When the store owner was forced to make way for a superstore plaza, I feared my beloved bookstore had seen its last days. Yet Betsey Detweiler, committed to all-things-books, assured me and the rest of her devoted customers that she wasn’t going anywhere. The new store was designed by Detweiler, and it was larger and housed more books and toys, yet it retained its independent bookstore charm.

In the new location, author events seemed to multiply, with guest appearances by the likes of Sue Miller and Nathanial Philbrick and Carole Goodman. Event coordinator extraordinaire, Kathleen ‘Totsie’ McGonagle had (and still does have) a flair for event planning that I watched from the sidelines, hoping that someday I’d be asked to read at the store.

Betsey took a chance on me when in 2004 she consigned copies of my self-published parenting book. Three years later when my nonfiction parenting guide Negotiation Generation was published traditionally by Penguin, Betsey and Totsie hosted my book party. It was so fitting that these women, who’d seen my children grow up around books and who’d supported me as I navigated my way toward publishing my work would be standing by me on launch day.

These generous women have gone on to host multiple book events for both of my novels Life Without Summer and Sea Escape. And then last year, Betsey opened her doors to me once more. This time offering me space after hours so I could teach multi-week courses through Grub Street, an independent writing center in Boston.

At Buttonwood Books, collaboration between readers, writers, and authors is the hallmark of this local treasure. My gratitude runs deep to all who work and shop there.
Great OC and I plan to participate, I have a small Indie bookstore near me, in the middle of a rural small town, I just need to wait for it to be open as the times are kind of sporadic.

You are so right. That is an outstanding store!

I still miss Harry Schwartz book shops. We had one in our Tiny But Beautiful Village on the North Shore of Wisconsin, and then it closed. Then our community tried to run a co-op book shop, and unfortunately our location on Oakland Avenue closed too.

My nieces and nephew and I will always remember the Good Night Moon mural in the children's department. I think the village will never be the same without an independent book shop that served the North Shore.

Where I got my first Harry Potter book: Cover to Cover Books in Columbus, Ohio. A children's bookstore with a fabulous selection and a very cool wall covered in visiting authors' and illustrators' autographs and drawings.
Hi. I just opened a new independent bookstore in Berkley, Michigan: the Berkley Book Corner at 2680 Coolidge Highway. This is a completely new venture for me, as I've never owned or operated a business before, but with the demise of Borders, it seemed there was a need in our community for a place for intelligent discerning readers to go, and I'm trying to do my best to provide it.

We are a relatively small place- just 1200 square feet and roughly 10000 titles, but we are trying to provide a cozy space where people can feel comfortable, and where I can provide personalized service to everyone who comes in the door. I offer new and gently-used, fiction and non-fiction, and I strive to feature titles people in our area cant find anywhere else.

Times are tough, but so far (we've been open only two weeks) we are doing ok, and I am confident that by developing a relationship with my patrons I can compete with Barnes and Nobles and even Amazon. Wish us luck, and if you are in the area, check us out...

PS- I have no idea how you "flag" this comment or include a picture, so if someone could help me out, I would appreciate it...
Open a Kindle and you see words. Go to a website and you see ads. It's not the same, and it'll never be the same, as walking over creaking floors, looking in the nooks and crannies of a store packed too full of books, getting help from a familiar face, breaking in to the first chapter to see if this one is the right one, all in a bookstore where you know the people who work there, where you know that if you walk in and just browse, there will be an unexpected book waiting for you, hand-picked and displayed right where you will find it.

My indie bookstore is Bookworks in Nantucket, MA. The building is smaller than your average Starbucks, and is packed with books. Local books. Carefully picked selections. More books than you would think it could hold, and hardly any that you wouldn't want to read. A comfortable children's area where my kids would be happy to pass away even a summer day.

Wendy and her staff are well-known in the community, are involved in many community events, and this too is something you will not get from the big stores or online merchants. Amazon has never sponsored our little league team, and neither Barnes nor Noble have ever plunged into the cold harbor at our Thanksgiving Turkey Plunge to support our local library. Very grateful to have our indie!
Children’s Book World
17 Station Road
Haverford, PA 19041

As a middle school language arts teacher, I was thrilled to discover this indie children’s store about 10 miles outside of Philadelphia. For an extensive selection, a knowledgeable and friendly staff, and an impressive line-up of on and off-site events, look no further. The list of scheduled author visits reads like a who’s who in YA and children’s lit: A.S. King, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan, Gayle Forman, Gary D. Schmidt, Jerry and Eileen Spinelli, Brian Selznick, Lauren Myracle, and many more. What a tremendous opportunity for students, parents, librarians, and educators in the Philadelphia region to not only connect with great books but meet the authors, too.
I live in a small ski resort town in Colorado where shops come and go due to the tough ups and downs of a primarily tourist-driven economy. Off The Beaten Path has been a staple in this town throughout the 10 years I have lived here... and prior to my arrival. I come from a family of book lovers and Off The Beaten Path has been a sanctuary for my yearning for good books. I walk in armed with a few recommendations from my sister, and walk out laden with more books than I have time to read. These days, they also offer Google books. Off The Beaten path is a place to escape the snowy days, to day dream over a hot chocolate or chai.
What an awesome open call. My husband and I always visit the indie bookstores wherever we are, but I don't know enough about any of them to write a full post, just a few memorable ones, and I'm not sure they are stilll open.

Second Street bookstore in Philly
The Big Sleep Mystery bookstore in St. Lewis
Sandy Book Store in Clearwater, FL
World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto
In Philadelphia: House of Our Own Books, at 3920 Spruce Street. I worked there while in college (1979-1984) and left Philly in 1984. Figured it had gone out of business, but this month I was in the area and went in...and it's better than ever.

A classic Philadelphia rowhouse with two floors filled with books: new and old, classic literature and contemporary politics and children's lit and science and... any category I can think of, it's there. Well, no: I didn't see many of the books that are ubiquitous in airport newsstands and supermarket racks--which doesn't mean there was no "mere" entertainment; my own addictions to science fiction and mysteries, for example, were well represented. But this is a bookstore for readers who love indies and all that they represent.

My husband and the friend traveling with us, who had heard stories of my days at "the bookstore" for as long as I've known them, were nevertheless stunned by the magnificent selection. And by the welcome we received from Deb at the cash register, whom I had known thirty years ago!
omg... how'd I miss this one?? Been busy... back to work. As soon as possible I'll write a little something on... Detroit's own John King's! No place like it.
Don't forget Powell's Book in Portland - the coolest and most comprehensive bookstore in America, and likely the world! And their staff are Union too!
No list would be complete without Bart's Books in Ojai, California. It's an open-air store that only stays open until sunset. All the books are covered, of course, but you're browsing among live oaks and in the SoCal sunshine. It's marvelous. My own Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island, Washington, deserves a mention as well. Beautifully run and designed, curated by smart folks and catering to the highly literary population of this writer's island. It's a gem.

I'm glad you mentioned BOW. That was my first job, in high school (back in 1990), when they were still on 7th Avenue, still had their Hudson Street store, and when they were just launching their imprint with William Morrow. I loved (love) that store, and I'm so glad that they're still going strong.

I could gush for hours about the amazing people I met and the experiences, but two meetings in particular stand out in my mind (one which I don't recall, but which my mom never tires of telling people; and one which I will never ever forget).

The first was Madeline L'Engle, who came several times to do readings and signings. The first time she came, I did get to meet her - however, my mom says that I came home afterwards complaining that it wasn't fair that I had to stock the shelves while the owner got to have tea with Madeline L'Engle. She asked I thought that *he* should have been stocking the shelves instead, and I suppose it's the inexperience of youth which allowed me to actually say "Well, of course!!" Needless to say I still think that. :-)

The second meeting was with Lloyd Alexander, still one of my favorite authors. His stories have stood the test of time for me, and I still read them at least once a year. I recently introduced my wife to them, and at the age of 33, she absolutely loved them. Although the first meeting was amazing (to actually be talking to the author of the Prydain Chronicles!), it was my senior year of high school that stands out. I wrote my senior thesis on the influence of Welsh mythology on children's literature, and focused specifically on his works and those of Susan Cooper. Well, because of my work at BOW, I was able to go down to Lloyd Alexander's home, meet with him, and spend several hours talking with him about his writing, his works, and pretty much everything! I sent him my paper when I was finished, and he sent me a nice note back about how well written it was (very kind, since from the perspective of almost 20 years, it's rather clunky). My mom actually didn't tell me when he died, because I was back in school at the time, studying for finals, and she didn't want to upset me. Probably a good thing - I was devastated, and still sad thinking about it now.

You say that you would buy boxes of books when you went there . . . I wonder if I packed them up for you?? Again, glad you mentioned the store.
Book Revue in Huntington New York. They have amazing used books and a homey, relaxing atmosphere. Hanging in through tough times and bringing something special to the Huntington Community. You can always find what you are looking for and for cheap.
Book Revue in Huntington New York. They have amazing used books and a homey, relaxing atmosphere. Hanging in through tough times and bringing something special to the Huntington Community. You can always find what you are looking for and for cheap.
Well, The Strand in New York City is the greatest independent bookstore. Huge.

When I visit friends in Northampton, MA I always spend time at the Raven Bookstore. With all the colleges in the area, this store is a treasure of serious nonfiction, literature and ephemera. They have another store in a nearby town,
The Bruised Apple in Peekskill, N.Y. is worth a visit. You never know what will appear on their shelves. I've gotten great books for very little there.
Village Books in Bellingham, WA, an absolutely great good place.
I couldn't pick just one store. And I couldn't get the story in by the deadline, either, but here are some thoughts on independent bookstores I have known. Plus bookselling stories and the reason e-readers make me want to throw up.