On The Courthouse Square
360 Jefferson St.
Mason, MI 48854
I've been very lucky. So many times when I have paid a visit to a new bookstore, I have enjoyed blue skies and remarkable weather. But you can't have a perfect day every day. Sometimes there are clouds, and even a little rain. On a rather bleak morning in April, I set out for the small town of Mason, Michigan, a short drive from Michigan State University where my son is a graduate student. Later in the day I would be meeting him for lunch. Meanwhile, during the hour or so that it took to drive from my home to Mason, I was just hoping that the impending rain would hold off long enough for me to locate Bestsellers, Books and Coffee Co.
What I discovered in the picturesque town of Mason is that although you don't always get a perfect day weatherwise, there is often sunshine and joy to be found in other areas: in the charming atmosphere of a small town, in the architectural beauty of an old courthouse, in the happy chatter of customers, and ultimately in the smiling faces of the staff who greeted me when I entered Bestsellers.
The front half of Bestsellers is devoted to the cafe with a dozen or so tables, free Wi-Fi, a coffee bar, bakery items, and (this is a first for me) ice cream. On this particular late Saturday morning, the place was buzzing with customers, and most of the small tables were occupied. Had the weather been nicer, patrons would likely have been seated at the outdoor tables with a view of the lovely Ingham County Courthouse Square. Taylor and Erin, two young, energetic, and cheery staff members, were busily attending to patrons but graciously took time out to talk to me.
The owners of Bestsellers, I learned, also own the buildings on either side of the bookstore. On one side occupying what once was a bank is a deli appropriately named The Vault, and while the original bank vault no longer stores money, it is nonetheless put to good use now to store another valuable commodity, wine. Taylor and Erin went on to explain that since this vault is adjacent to one wall in Bestsellers, the bookstore, by proximity, has one bullet-proof wall (another first). The deli and the bookstore share more than just a bullet-proof wall, however; they also share customers. I noted several patrons enjoying food ordered from the deli and served in the bookstore cafe.
On the other side of the bookstore is a banquet hall which can be rented for small events, graduation parties for example, which are catered by The Vault. When not in use for parties, the space is available for a variety of other events. On my visit, a class on pattern making was in progress.
I purchased a cafe mocha and headed to the back of the store to browse the actual bookstore portion of the establishment. Of note is the well-appointed Young Adult section carrying many of my favorite titles. Wood floors with a well-worn patina give way to comfy carpeting in the kids' area which welcomes young readers with a toy train track and old school desks and chairs.
In addition to the great variety of bookmarks and other book-related items, Bestsellers' offerings are rounded out with an array of items from greeting cards and gift bags to jewelry. I found a refrigerator magnet that I thought would make a perfect gift for a good friend. It read, "Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of chocolate." I couldn't agree more.
In the fiction section, a title completely new to me immediately captured my attention. Anyone who has read and loved John Green's YA novel, Looking For Alaska, will understand why. (And if you haven't read it, you really should give it a try.) The book is titled The Great Perhaps, and as luck would have it, this copy was autographed by the author, Joe Meno. This was an easy purchasing decision.
With my Bestsellers purchases in hand, it was time to end my visit to this unique store and the charming town of Mason. As I headed back outside, the weather was still bleak, but overshadowed by my very enjoyable visit to Bestsellers. I couldn't help but be reminded of the words from an old song, "I've got sunshine on a cloudy day."