120 W. Buffalo
New Buffalo, MI 49117
What do you get when you combine a charming Lake Michigan coastal tourist town with fireworks? For the Redd family, that combination made for one fantastic vacation. Although he is a hobbyist, not a professional, my husband Jim is a certified pyrotechnician, and my son Culver and I are avid fans of his fireworks hobby. Each year for the past decade we have spent a week in August attending the Pyrotechnics Guild International annual convention where we enjoy hours of beautifully choreographed fireworks displays among other pyro delights. This year's convention was held for the first time in LaPorte, Indiana, just a little over two hours' drive from our home. We decided to spend the week at a nearby resort in New Buffalo, Michigan, on the shores of what we locals refer to as the Big Lake. After last year's convention in Fargo, North Dakota, it was quite a relief to have such a short drive, and the close proximity also afforded us the pleasure of having Culver's girlfriend Alysandra with us for a portion of the week.
"What does all this have to do with bookstores?" you are probably wondering. Well, no self-respecting bibliomaniac is going to be on vacation in a quaint tourist town without checking to see if there is a bookstore in the area. And I was in luck. As it turns out, New Buffalo is home to Buffalo Books, a delightful and interesting used bookstore with a truly fascinating owner. What's more, it was just a few blocks from our hotel.
Culver and Aly were happy to accompany me on this particular trip. As the three of us climbed the stairs of Buffalo Books' massive front porch, we were greeted by its storied owner, Pete Carroll, who was on the porch relaxing with a book. Pete graciously showed us around the establishment and gave me a bit of its history.
Previously a Christmas store, the building in which Buffalo Books resides is actually two old houses that have been joined together creating what looks like one huge house. The original homesteads, Pete explained, are the two oldest in the township dating back to the mid 1800's. The huge brick fireplace inside is a striking reminder of that era.
Pete is in his fourth year selling books at Buffalo Books. About three years ago, he branched out and started including art in the business, but in a house 150-ish years old, what would be more appropriate than selling antiques? So recently Buffalo Books began doing just that, moving in a variety of items such as an old console TV, tables, chairs, and dressers. Down the road Pete says he may fix up an apartment in the building and move himself in too.
Originally from Chicago, Pete moved to New Buffalo in 1993. As the store is only open during the summer months, he does a variety of other jobs during the winter. And speaking of other jobs, I was captivated by Pete's stories of working as a personal page to George McGovern in 1968 and being called upon again to work at the Democratic National Convention in Miami in 1972. He showed us a signed letter of thanks that he received from the South Dakota Senator, and the store has some fascinating displays of election memorabilia including old campaign buttons and bumper stickers.
The store has a wide variety of books including several in its children's section as well as a selection of local-interest titles. Pete drew my attention to one title in particular that is, oddly enough, brand new. The book does have a unique connection to Buffalo Books, however, as it was written by a local author and previous owner of the building. Leo Totzke's family owned a successful fruit-growing business in the area. His early experiences on this farm provided Leo with inspiration for this book, Peaches & Past Times, a collection of inspired recipes, memories, and timeless photographs. When Pete pointed out that it was a signed copy, I made an immediate purchasing decision. Can't wait to start trying some of those peach recipes. I also purchased, from among the art items in the store, a beautiful pottery flower frog as a gift for the sweet animal lover who was taking care of our cat while we were away. Thanks, Angie.
By night, impressive fireworks displays--by day, a beautiful tourist town on the shores of gorgeous Lake Michigan--and an interesting bookstore to top it all off. Now that's my kind of vacation. It was a blast.
Note: For more information about the Pyrotechnics Guild International and their annual convention, take a look at their web site: http://www.pgi.org. Next year's convention will be held in Butler County just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
|A wall of professional grade firecrackers called the MegaString.|