243 East Front
Traverse City, MI 49684
What springs to your mind at the mention of J. C. Penney? For me it's my childhood and the annual experience of shopping for school clothes. In my youth, a trip to J. C. Penney, or Penney's as my mom referred to it, meant not a trip to the mall, but to a large, multi-floored, wonder of a department store occupying a single building. Okay, I'll give away my age and admit that malls didn't yet exist during my childhood. These days I still shop at "Penney's" from time to time--yes, in a mall. More convenient, but the experience is just not the same. Whatever your mind conjures up at the mention of this bit of commercial Americana, I'll wager it isn't a bookstore, unless of course you live in Traverse City, Michigan, where an old J. C. Penney store has been transformed into one terrific bookstore. Horizon Books is a large bookstore with a small bookstore feel right in the heart of beautiful downtown Traverse City.
In a recent blog post I mentioned my trip to this lovely northern Michigan coastal city. It was a warm, sunny October day, and I had just enjoyed a visit to another Traverse City bookseller (See Brilliant) where I met up with Tim, my old high school friend and Traverse City resident. I was treated to a tasty lunch at a local eatery, and then the two of us headed off to Horizon. That's right, two bookstores in the same town, on the same street no less. Beautiful town, beautiful day, old friend, and two bookstores . . . it doesn't get any better than that.
As we entered the building, initially through the back on the lower level, I found myself in an expansive space populated not just with rows and rows of bookshelves and a large collection of periodical offerings, but also a number of tables. One laid-back looking foursome sat engaged in a game of mahjong while at a nearby table, a chess set stood at the ready, beckoning potential board-game combatants. Tim explained that this area is used for a variety of events such as author visits, club meetings, and musical performances. Or customers can simply relax and hang out with a cup of coffee and a snack from the Horizon Shine Cafe. A fireplace adds to the cozy ambiance, and the entire lower level has a comfortable, inviting feel. Tim says Horizon Books is a very community-oriented common gathering place, and I can certainly see why.
As far as print material goes, the lower level is taken up largely with bargain books, publishers overstock, and remainders, as well as geography, travel, transportation, and sports books. Just up the stairs, I noticed a bulletin board announcing a variety of upcoming "Events Upon the Horizon." It seems that there is always something going on at Horizon Books.
On this uppermost floor, I was not surprised to find more tables and chairs as well as puzzles, poetry books, and a huge selection of greeting cards. Tim and I took a few moments to sit down at one of the tables and catch up on the latest activities in our lives and to share reading suggestions. Tim is himself a writer and has enjoyed a friendly relationship with Horizon and its staff over the years.
Cadillac was my second subject. As you might guess, that store also has a cozy cafe with a fireplace, but alas it is a much smaller store and has room for only one. I imagine the store in Petoskey also has a cafe and perhaps a fireplace. Or two? After this thoroughly enjoyable visit in Traverse City, I guess next summer I will have to make the trip to Petoskey to find out for myself.