Round Lake Bookstore
216 Bridge Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
What do you do when you've just opened a small independent bookstore in a charming Lake Michigan tourist town and one month later the Book World chain opens a store just down the street? Well, if you're the owners, Dianne and Bill Dupont, you carry on and do everything you can to make your store a success. Six years later it would appear that they have done just that. Round Lake Bookstore in Charlevoix, Michigan, by my observation is thriving.
My visit to this store actually came as an unexpected bonus on an already very enjoyable trip. One Friday afternoon last month I made the two-hour trek from our cottage to Charlevoix as I had it on good authority that the town has a fabulous library, and I wanted to check it out. (See previous post.) To my surprise, I learned from one of the librarians that there is not only a great little bookstore in town, but that it is within walking distance from the library. With plenty of my afternoon left, I was delighted to make the pleasant, 3-block stroll to visit Round Lake Bookstore.
Purely by coincidence, my trip to Charlevoix coincided with Apple Fest, the town's fall festival, so I entered the shop to find it a very busy place and Dianne, a very busy bookstore owner. When she wasn't out among the shelves helping a customer find just the right book, she was behind the small, crowded front desk, cheerfully talking books with customers. In spite of all the activity, Dianne was happy to talk with me. After discussing our latest reads and favorite titles, we soon discovered that we had a connection beyond books. Dianne lived for many years in the Grand Rapids area, working at the very same place where my husband currently works. I never fail to be surprised by such an example of the seemingly limited size of our world.
What Round Lake lacks in size, it makes up for in customer service, providing that personal touch that sets a good independent store apart from the big chains. A love of books and good knowledge of specific titles complemented by a friendly face and willingness to help can go a long way in gaining and keeping regular customers. Round Lake Bookstore does indeed have a friendly vibe. A small sign displayed in the shop says it all, "Be Nice Or Leave."
This store may not have the square footage or the large inventory of a big chain store, but the space it has is well used. The two compact rooms are practically overflowing. Books adorn every available space, while behind the desk, Dianne is surrounded by even more. Nonetheless, the store feels bright and cheery. Basking in an abundance of light from the large front windows, two wicker chairs add to the summery cottage feel of the place.
Though the store is small, Dianne says she has no plans to expand. She likes it just the way it is. If a customer is looking for a title not currently in her inventory, she will happily find it, order it, and ship it. I took advantage of this service myself, and within a week the book I was after arrived at my home in Lowell. I must say that I agree with Dianne; I too like Round Lake Bookstore just the way it is.
As for the chain store down the street--well, they recently closed.
Score one for the little guy!