2645 Houghton Lake Drive
Houghton Lake, MI 48629
"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Most of us are familiar with that iconic line from Forrest Gump. I think the saying can be applied equally to bookstores. You can't tell from the outside what awaits you on the inside. Well, okay, if it's a Barnes and Noble, you know precisely what you're going to get. Therein lies my fascination with independent bookstores, each one unique with its own delightful story to tell. Just such a store is Tammy's Bookworm in the northern Michigan vacation town of Houghton Lake.
|Store owner Tammy Jones|
Traveling along the busy drive beside the shores of Houghton Lake, it would be easy to miss this shop with its simple, unassuming exterior. But you'd be missing out. Tammy's is a used bookstore with much to offer and proves the point that with small bookstores, like life, you never know what you're gonna get.
As a retired librarian, the first thing I noticed about Tammy's was how well organized the store is, neatly arranged by genre and in many cases with author-specific labeling. The second thing I noticed was how busy the store is and how helpful owner Tammy Jones is, readily locating specific titles and offering book suggestions for customers. It put me in mind of my librarian days, and no wonder--as it turns out, Tammy was previously a librarian at the public library in nearby Roscommon. The librarian's touch definitely shows in her store and in her service. I suspect that is one of the reasons that she has a great community connection and an ongoing relationship with repeat patrons.
One dedicated customer, Irma Stone, was in the store at the time of my visit. Irma says she has been a fan of the store since the beginning, following The Bookworm through six moves. The store started out in Roscommon, outgrew that location, and went on to outgrow several other buildings before landing in Houghton Lake where the shop has now been for the past six years. Tammy said that even though she had help from several devoted volunteers, she is never moving the store again.
Tammy's has a wide selection of titles and even a children's section with a colorful, pint-sized table and chairs and a mural hand painted on the wall by Diane Knapp, one of Tammy's friends. A cozy nook in the front of the store provides a place to sit and peruse a title. Rows and rows of tidy shelves hold easy-to-access books, framed art prints adorn the walls, and one interesting display is graced by an antique radio and clock. The store has a bright and cheery feel.
Tammy acquires her inventory strictly from patrons who trade in books and gain a third off the price of another title. She says she has never actually bought any books for the store. They have all come from customer trade-ins or donations.
Tammy's Bookworm does offer some new titles, most notably those by Michigan author Richard Baldwin, who writes mysteries about Michigan locations. The store has been inundated with people from all over the state who have come to The Bookworm for Baldwin book signings. Tammy's was even the site of radio broadcasts for two years in a row.
I am a big fan of actress, comedienne, and all-around talent, Betty White. So when I spotted a copy of one of her books, in perfect condition no less, I made an easy purchasing decision. Can't wait to read this title, If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't).
|Long-time customer, Deborah|
Before I ended my visit at Tammy's Bookworm, I had an opportunity to chat with long-time customer Deborah Stockwell, who has been coming to the store since she was in high school and has a close relationship with Tammy. I particularly enjoyed talking to Deborah, now an English major at Northland International University in Wisconsin, because she reminded me of so many of the students with whom I developed close relationships during my years as a high school librarian. There is something about the love of books, bookstores, and reading that brings people together, and Tammy's Bookworm is doing its part to unite readers with just the right book. This former librarian is impressed. Keep it up, Tammy!