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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Nice Surprise

Happy Owl Bookshop
358 River Street
Manistee, MI

I'm not generally a big fan of surprises. I'm more of a planner, preparer, organizer. My husband would probably say too much so at times. But who doesn't enjoy a pleasant surprise out of the blue from time to time? And discovering a bookstore out of the blue? Count me in.

This past October my husband and I decided to take advantage of a lovely fall day and drive from our cottage to one of my favorite places, the scenic overlook on M-22 (see previous post) near Arcadia, the perfect spot for a Christmas card picture. Our trip took us through the summer tourist town of Manistee where we suddenly encountered a halt in traffic while a drawbridge was up to let a large boat pass through a channel on its way to nearby Lake Michigan. Thinking there might be a way around the traffic jam, we veered off course into downtown Manistee. Now, you should know that my husband is afflicted by a neurological disorder that causes him to uncontrollably hit the brake whenever he sees a yard sale, flea market, or antique shop. As he is always on the lookout, I was not at all surprised when he pulled into a parking spot after spying a promising antique shop. I don't share his fascination with rooting through old stuff, but as long as we were waiting for the drawbridge anyway, I agreed to sit in the car while he did some rummaging. After a quick check of my email and a couple games of solitaire on my phone, I looked up and glanced across the street where—Surprise!—I saw, as you probably guessed, a bookstore. Happy Owl Bookshop.

I am not unfamiliar with Manistee having written a few years back about two bookstores here: Anne's, a charming used bookstore and The Bookstore, a fun place run by the jovial “Pat and Peggy Show.” (For clarification, read my posts about those shops: Bookstore and Anne's.) But a third bookstore in this small town? I immediately decided that it must be relatively new or I would have heard about it by now. Since my husband was still likely absorbed in his antiquing pursuits, I headed across the street to check it out. From the staff person on duty at the time, I learned that the Happy Owl was about two and a half years old, but wasn't exactly new in the strictest sense of the word. It was a spinoff of the aforementioned shop, The Bookstore, which sadly was now closed. I needed to know more and determined to come back later when my time was not so tight. So the following afternoon found me heading back to Manistee.

Pat Sagala manages The Happy Owl.
When I walked into the store, I immediately encountered a woman every bit as gregarious and jovial as Pat Sagala from The Bookstore. What fun. Turns out it actually was Pat Sagala from The Bookstore, and she remembered me from my earlier visit. She told me that Peggy is also a part of the Happy Owl, but she wasn't in the shop on this particular day. Nevertheless, I was happy to have a chance to visit with half of the “Pat and Peggy Show.” Pat filled me in on the history of the Happy Owl.

When The Bookstore was sold to a new owner, he decided to move the establishment down the street to what was once a Montgomery Wards store and then give it a total redo. He persuaded Pat to set up and operate the new store, but she says she had to promise not to retire for at least five years. Pat is now the manager of this new shop that she designed from the ground up. From the d├ęcor to the book displays, her whimsical touches are prominent especially when it comes to the children's area. Fun artwork and quotes about books and reading embellish the walls, and I was thrilled to find that the red train that had anchored the children's area in The Bookstore had found its way to the Happy Owl.

There are three tiny rooms outfitted especially for kids. Puzzles, toys, and games in the Melissa and Doug room, Michigan books and authors in the Michigan room, a cozy bench and bean bag cushions in the Reading Nook are all designed to provide a special, inviting place for budding readers. And owls are everywhere—stuffed owls, pictures of owls, an owl hanging from the ceiling. Even the bean bags in the Reading Nook are printed with owls.

Adults are not left out. There are a couple of comfy couches as well as plenty of magazines and adult titles. Customers will find an array of unique cards and gifts too. And there's a separate room filled with used book bargains. 

On the last Tuesday of each month, the store sponsors a book club. Perusing a display of past book club titles, I noticed several of my recent favorites. This sounds like my kind of book club. 

My visit with Pat was such fun that I'm thinking perhaps next summer I will have to check out this book club. Seems like a good reason to visit Manistee and the charming Happy Owl Bookshop.

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