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.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tip of the Mitt, Part II

The Island Bookstore
Main St. Center
PO Box 1298
Mackinac Island, MI 49757

With a view of the magnificent Mackinac Bridge in the distance, historic Mackinac Island, sitting in the blue-green waters of Lake Huron, attracts swarms of visitors every summer. Stepping off the ferry onto the Island is somewhat akin to time travel. Mass transit is strictly of the literal horsepower variety. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the Island. A walk down the quaint Main Street involves sharing the road with horse-drawn carriages and bicycles.

The hotels, stores, and restaurants are abuzz with activity during the warm weather season, but as the temperatures drop, so does the number of tourists. Hotels and stores close, and the hustle and bustle ceases until the next warm season. The Island is not entirely deserted in the winter, however. A residual group of citizens remains. For them the Island is a year-round home. One such resident is Mary Jane Barnwell, who along with her brother and sister-in-law, are the owners of The Island Bookstore.

Tamara and Mary Jane behind the desk
After a stop at the Island's lovely library (See Tip of the Mitt, Part I), I made my way down Main Street in search of its bookstore which shares space with a collection of shops in a street-level courtyard of the Lilac Tree Hotel. In keeping with the hotel's theme, the entrance to the store is painted in a variety of lovely lilac hues. Mary Jane was not in the store when I first arrived, but friendly manager, Tamara Tomac, was ready to assist me.
Tamara lives off the Island near Mackinaw City and was formerly a first and second grade teacher. I could see her influence in the back corner of the store, devoted to children's and YA books and merchandise. As I was checking out that section, Mary Jane arrived and was happy to give me more details about The Island Bookstore.

The store is over 40 years old and at one time occupied space above a grocery store. It has been under the current ownership since 1989, moving to its present location in 1991.  The shop is of modest size, its small footprint being one of the biggest challenges for Tamara and Mary Jane. But they have certainly made the most of the floor space they have. The shop is a treasure trove of items to attract the attention of book and library lovers like me.  Its shelves, floors, and walls are jam packed with books, games, art, gifts, reading glasses, and many unusual and interesting items. I had a difficult time keeping my spending in check. I fell in love with a tote bag made to look like an old-time library card. What's more, I found socks to match. How cool is that?

Owning a store on a tourist island comes with some unique challenges. When the Island's famous Grand Hotel shuts down in November, The Island Bookstore closes too. Mary Jane says every year she opens a bookstore and closes a bookstore. In the fall she clears the shelves and empties the store. Then in the spring she restocks the shop with new merchandise. Living on the Island allows her to remain in business over the winter months doing special book orders for residents, and online ordering is always available from the store web site.

As you might expect, the store specializes in Mackinac-area items including a picture book that Mary Jane has authored, Goodnight Mackinac Island. She graciously signed a copy for me.

The Island in winter was recently the subject of a feature film for public television, Ice Bridge: Mackinac Island's Hidden Season. I was drawn to one corner of the store where a screen displayed clips from the film. Knowing that it is unlikely that I will ever visit in the winter, I decided to purchase a DVD of Ice Bridge for a glimpse into off-season life on the Island from the warmth of my living room.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to lovely Mackinac Island and The Island Bookstore. But my Tip of the Mitt adventure was not over just yet. The Island Bookstore has a sister store in Mackinaw City. But that's another book story.

Here is a preview of the Ice Bridge film:

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