About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Never An Off Season

Black River Books
330 Kalamazoo St.
South Haven, MI 49090

Sunny, golden beaches, summer cottages and resorts with windows thrown open to catch the breezes off the lake, gift shops, galleries, boutiques, bustling marinas, and plenty of ice cream stands and eateries with cute names--and of course people--lots and lots of people, tourists to be specific--such is summer at any one of the numerous tourist towns that grace the lake shores of Michigan. They don't call us the "Water Wonderland" for nothing. But what becomes of these quaint villages in the off season when the lakes freeze, the cottages are boarded up for the winter, the boats are all in storage, and "Closed for the Season" signs seem more common than tourists? I recently had an opportunity to find out on a brief road trip with Sue, my sister and frequent co-pilot on these excursions. We had occasion to stop in the small Lake Michigan coastal town of South Haven in mid December when boats and sun bathers were replaced with Christmas decorations and ice skaters. The vacationers were long gone, but the soul of the town we found to be very much alive and well, the tourism hustle and bustle replaced by simple, friendly peacefulness. As a matter of fact, once I set foot inside the main subject of our visit, Black River Books, it didn't feel like an off season at all. I was at once captivated by the warmth of this year-round establishment and the gregarious nature of its owners, not to mention the delightful bookstore dogs. That's right, dogs.

The Boys, Booker and Dewey
Barely inside the store, we were immediately greeted by endearing canine hosts, Booker and Dewey. These four-footed ambassadors for Black River Books are an integral part of the business. Customers, especially kids, love them, their likenesses appear on a store t-shirt, and "The Boys" have their own page on the store website where they make book suggestions for young readers. These well-mannered, furry bookstore stars also have unique talents; Booker says "I love you!" and Dewey flashes a big, toothy smile. To see a video of their antics and read more about them, visit their web page: Booker and Dewey.

Dick at the front desk
Obviously pet friendly, the store owners are very people friendly as well. Having lived in a variety of places before settling in South Haven to pursue their bookstore dream, Dick and Pam Haferman are energetic, enthusiastic, and readily strike up a conversation. Dick is a former pastor, and his wife Pam was a mental health counselor in her pre-bookstore life. In business since Memorial Weekend, 2007, both owners have a knack for making customers feel right at home at Black River Books, a used bookstore with a new bookstore feel.
Pam shelves books in the children's room

A carpeted seating area, complete with comfy arm chairs and a coffee table, invites customers to relax with coffee and a snack. Self-serve coffee is only $1. To accompany your coffee, try some biscotti or Swedish toast, homemade by Pam. Or sit and thumb through a book in a cushioned Windsor chair or rocker.

There are many private nooks and small rooms to be investigated including a separate room for children's books. The shop is well laid out and browser friendly with titles covering a wide range of topics all meticulously organized on quality wood shelving. Although it is a used bookstore, there are some new titles available particularly in the children's section. A smattering of new books by local authors and publications pertinent to the local area can also be found.

One new title that Pam keeps in stock for its obvious appeal to lovers of books and bookstores is The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee. Part memoir, part history of the book selling trade, it was, not surprisingly, of special interest to me. Pam recommends it highly to bookstore enthusiasts, so much so that she promises if you read it and don't like it, you can bring it back for a full refund. So far she has sold about 150 copies, and only one has come back. For those who may be new to this blog, let me explain that it is my custom to make a purchase at each bookstore I visit. Selecting The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was a no brainer. In addition, I found a coffee mug with the Black River Books logo. Now I ask you, what could be better than sitting down with a cup of coffee and a book about bookshops?

As I was nearing the end of my visit to this terrific store, Dick drew my attention to an old magazine. But this was no ordinary magazine. The last thing I expected to see in this shop was a Playboy. But this was no ordinary Playboy. It was, in fact, a 30-year-old, collectible Braille Playboy. That's right, Braille. Who knew such a thing existed. "We charge $5 a feel," Pam joked.

From the interesting and friendly owners to the lovable canine staff members, this was one memorable trip. It is obvious that Dick and Pam love what they do. It may have been the middle of December, but at Black River Books there seems to be no off season.

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