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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Books, Coffee, and People

Local Flavor
125 Water Street
Boyne City, MI 49712

It's been a little over two years since I retired and started this blog. What a fun and wonderful two years it has been. One of the things I most appreciate is how supportive my friends and family have been. Serving oftentimes as roving lookouts, they let me know when they have spotted a bookstore I might be interested in. So one sunny Saturday in September I was not surprised when I got a phone call from one of my favorite scouts. My sister Sue and her husband Ralph were taking advantage of the glorious September weather we had this year by spending the weekend in the northern Michigan town of Boyne City where they happened to notice, as I'm sure you guessed, a promising bookstore. As luck would have it, I was at the family cottage only a couple of hours away. It was a lovely day, and I had an open agenda, so within the hour I was on my way to Boyne City.

Never before had I the pleasure of visiting this small town situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Charlevoix, but by the end of the day, I was in love with the place. An all-season tourist town, Boyne City offers sandy beaches, boating, and plenty of area golf courses during the summer as well as ski resorts for the winter sports enthusiasts. Now I don't have a boat, I can't claim to be much of a golfer, and I am definitely not a winter sports enthusiast, but as you well know by now, I am a lover of bookstores, and Boyne City is home to a charming one called Local Flavor.

Situated on the main street of the town, Local Flavor was easy to find, and I was lucky enough to obtain a parking spot right in front of the store. As I entered the shop, the owner, Chris Bandy, had just finished a conversation with one of the staff members and was headed to the back of the store where I caught up with him. It was apparent that some sort of work was underway there, and Chis explained that he was in the midst of a small remodel to add a wall and create a quiet space for people to meet or sit and read.

Local Flavor is always evolving, says Chris, and quite an evolution it has been. The store resides in what was once Kaden's Department Store, a local fixture in town. The building, more than 100 years old, is now home not just to the bookstore, but also to a wine shop next door. How convenient for me, a wine lover as well as a book lover.

The original tin ceiling and worn wood floors put me in mind of the local "dime store" of my youth. Chris wants the shop to maintain a local, hometown feel, and for me at least, he is succeeding. The shop's decor is punctuated by interesting antiques such as an old school desk and a classic Coca Cola cooler, while a photo of the original Kaden's Department store is prominently displayed on the wall.

A former manager of the store and northern Michigan resident for over 25 years, Chris has been the owner of Local Flavor for the past two years. It didn't take a long conversation to realize that he is every bit the bibliomaniac that I am. I'm sure he would have made a great librarian. Not lost on me was his eye-catching display for "Banned Books Week" featuring some of the popular challenged titles set off with bright yellow caution tape.

Also featured prominently in the store's decor is coffee. "We're about books, coffee, and people," says Chris. He has expanded Local Flavor's offerings to include bulk coffee and tea. In addition to large bags and bins of coffee setting off one area of the shop, customers will find cups, travel mugs, flavorings, tea pots, and the like. 

Marty working behind the desk
The front of the store features a small seating area where customers can relax with a coffee beverage while they visit with friends or utilize the free Wi-Fi. One table is equipped with an Internet computer available for customer use. The store offers both new and quality used books mixed together on the shelves as well as a customer trade-in program whereby saleable books can be exchanged for store credit. As for the people, no good bookstore would be complete without helpful personnel, and I enjoyed meeting Hannah and Marty, two very friendly staff members who went out of their way to assist me.

Hannah in the children's section
Chris Bandy's love of people, books, and reading extends beyond the bookstore to the Boyne City community where he works on the library board as well as the committee for "Boyne Reads," an annual program which promotes a community read. The program features discussions at the library as well as the store and culminates in a workshop with the author of the selected book along with other local events. This year's Boyne Reads featured book is Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg, who will be in Boyne City in November. I don't know if I will be able to travel to Boyne City to meet this author, but I felt nonetheless inspired to purchase this title. Part memoir, part detective story, it was designated as a Michigan Notable Book for 2010 and one of the Washington Post's best books of 2009.

A photo of the original Kaden's Department store hangs on the wall.
Along with the book, I purchased a delicious hot mocha, and not long after, my sister was back in town after a day of boating on Lake Charlevoix. As we headed out to check out the wine shop next door, I thanked her for calling me to let me know about this lovely store. Boyne City and Local Flavor were definitely worth the drive for me. Now when I get a chance to sit down and read Annie's Ghost, I will feel like a part of Boyne Reads.

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