2660 28th Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have nothing against big chain bookstores. I shop at Barnes and Noble from time to time. I even have a Barnes and Noble membership card. Come on. A bookstore is a bookstore after all. But I have a special place in my heart for independent bookstores. With something of a hurried imperative, I began this blog nearly three years ago, thinking that my time might be limited. As electronic media became more and more popular, surely the independent bookstore would be an endangered species. Happily, I was wrong. As with any business, there are some that flounder and fade away. But I was pleased to find a reality of numerous bookstores, small and large, adapting and thriving. As a matter of fact I recently paid a visit to a successful independent bookstore in Grand Rapids, Michigan, not more than a mile from a sizable Barnes and Noble store. Apparently they can coexist, and in close proximity no less.
Nearly 32 years ago, Schuler Books & Music opened for business on a busy Grand Rapids commercial artery, later moving down the street to its current, larger location where it has been since 1995. While the original store concentrated on books and games, the current space, once home to a car manufacturing plant and dealership, provided space enough to allow Schuler to add music as well as a large café.
I had the pleasure of chatting with store manager, Tim Smith, who has been with the store for about 20 years, starting his Schuler career as a college intern. He has been around for the move to the current location as well as the creation of two additional Schuler stores in the Lansing area.
One of my favorite things about Schuler Books is its delightful children's area. Stocked with a broad array of the latest popular picture books and kids' titles, the large, cheery space entices young book lovers with games, toys, tables, child-sized places to sit, stuffed animals, and even a charming cabin playhouse.
In other parts of the store comfy seating is abundant for older readers as well. Arm chairs, sofas, tables, and benches are sprinkled throughout the building, providing ample opportunity for paging through a potential purchase. At one table I even noticed a group of women engaged in a card game. The store offers a variety of activities and events including school book fairs, tabletop games, live music, and book signings.
Another notable feature at Schuler Books is its Espresso Book Machine, a high-speed automatic book printer able to produce a quality paperback in minutes. These books can be printed from a digital inventory of titles from a variety of publishing companies as well as out-of-print public domain Google books. Are you a budding writer? Self publishing services are also available at Schuler, so that novel or book of poetry you've created can find its way into print. Or maybe you just want a printed copy of your family tree or a memoir for your grandchildren. This machine can help you create it.
Of course, Schuler Books has a wide range of print books including a selection of gently used titles, and of special interest to me, a well-appointed young adult section. Attractive book displays are everywhere. And there are several friendly staff members eager to answer questions and offer assistance. One particular staff person named Laura was especially helpful for me, not just answering my questions, but also making a compelling reading recommendation from one of the titles in a special display, Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler. The fact that this book was sporting a 20% off sticker together with Laura's glowing recommendation persuaded me to purchase it. On this particular day there was yet another book I had to purchase. The book? Not Cool by best-selling author and media personality, Greg Gutfeld, who was scheduled to be in the store that day for a signing as part of his national book tour. I was pleased to purchase the book and meet the gracious and witty author.
After the author event I made my way to another favorite part of the store, the Chapbook Café, where I purchased a tasty sandwich and sat down to lunch at a table near the warm and cozy fireplace. Yes, it was a spring day, but Mother Nature has had little regard for the calendar this year, so the fire was welcome.
I had shopped at Schuler Books in the past, but it had been quite some time since my last stop at this fine store. I was pleased to be reminded of what a great place it is. I won't wait so long before I visit again. After all, Schuler Books has everything the local Barnes and Noble has, and then some.