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.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Checking The Archives

The Archives Book Shop
519 West Grand River Ave.
East Lansing, MI 48823

What comes to your mind at the mention of postcards? A memorable vacation? Stunning outdoor panoramas? A favorite tourist attraction perhaps? How about the mention of travel brochures? Or nature guides? If you're like me, these items do not typically evoke memories of a bookstore--at least not until recently. That changed after I had the opportunity to visit The Archives Book Shop in East Lansing, Michigan, where such things are not only available, but abundant.

For the past year and a half, I have been making occasional trips to East Lansing as my son Culver is a graduate student at Michigan State. Sometimes these trips come with added benefits. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree in our family. Culver is a bibliomaniac much like me and is generally up for a trip to a bookstore, so it wasn't surprising when during one of my recent trips to East Lansing, he was happy to accompany me to investigate The Archives Book Shop.

Archives staff members Matt and Susan
In business for 23 years, Archives is directly adjacent to Grand River Coffee, and with an open door between the two businesses, they seem to enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Rows of used books neatly arranged on old wooden shelves beneath a lovely tin ceiling coupled with the sounds and smells emanating from the coffee shop create a comfortable, friendly atmosphere in the bookstore. Upon entering, we were greeted by Matt who has been working at Archives for about four years. His wife Susan is also an Archives employee, and the two were happy to tell us about the store.

Culver looks at some of Archive's many postcards.
Culver and I were immediately drawn to the store's collection of over 40,000 postcards stored in a bank of long rectangular boxes that reminded this former librarian of the card catalogs of now-archaic libraries, and fitting, I thought, for a store called The Archives. The postcards are organized according to country and state, so Culver immediately pulled out the Michigan box. Meanwhile I went on to browse the rest of this interesting store.

In addition to a broad array of book titles, I also noticed old signs, vintage photos, quite a collection of sheet music, and a large metal cabinet housing travel brochures. But some of the more interesting items for sale are the catnip toys. Yes, catnip toys in a bookstore. Matt explained that Archives was once home to a bookstore cat named Moe, so the inclusion of feline treats is no surprise. "Freshest catnip in town," says Matt. Alas, the beloved Moe is now only a memory, but the store has continued the catnip tradition.

While Culver continued to browse the postcards, I was on a quest for a specific book, and fortunately, Matt was able to locate a copy for me. The title? Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I know, I know. It's practically a crime that I am a 60-year-old former librarian/English teacher and yet have never actually read this Bradbury classic in which books play a prominent role. Better late than never, I thought, and was happy to purchase Archive's only copy.

Meanwhile Culver had selected some wonderful old postcards including some from near Lowell, our home town. Most notable is a card featuring the historic Whites Bridge, a covered bridge only a few miles from our home, and still in operation. Having crossed the Flat River via this picturesque bridge a number of times, I was delighted to purchase this postcard as well as several others from around Michigan.

If you've read my post about East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, The store name "Archives" may sound familiar since Ray Walsh is the owner of both shops, and I mentioned Archives in that earlier post. The Archives Book Shop is quite a bit smaller than Curious Books, and more of a specialty store, offering its own unique blend of books and collectibles.

After pleasurable visits at both Curious Books and The Archives, I understand that there is yet another bookstore with a Ray Walsh connection in Grand Rapids, even closer to my home. Now I think I hear Argos Books calling my name.

Vintage postcard of the historic Whites Bridge

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