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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In A Country Shire

Northon's Shire Bookshop
110 N. Main Street
P. O. Box 31
Evart, Michigan 49631

Once again I find myself in the annual interim between Christmas and New Year's, the perfect time for introspection and review of the year about to end. In 2016, I reached a milestone—my fifth year of retirement from my job as a high school librarian. I am only now just beginning to actually think of January, rather than September, as the start of a new year. It's hard to believe I have been doing this blog for five years. When I began, I really had no idea that I would still be finding new bookstores to write about. Part of me expected to find that brick-and-mortar bookstores would be scarce by now. Happily, quite the opposite is true.

Quite by accident I happened upon the last bookstores I visited in 2016. On a drive through rural central Michigan, my route took me through the small town of Evart. Now, I have made it my habit when passing through any unfamiliar town to drive slowly along the main street just in case the community might be home to a bookstore. You never know. In the case of Evart, the main downtown street runs perpendicular to the two-lane highway on which I was traveling, a fact which I noted only after I had already passed through the intersection. As the afternoon was waning, I debated for about a quarter mile as to whether or not to take the time to turn around. Evart is but a small country town after all. Of course my bookstore curiosity got the better of me, and I did indeed turn around. Thankfully. For low and behold, I did indeed find a bookstore in this country hamlet, Northon's Shire Bookshop, and there was still about half an hour before closing time.

B. J. Northon, bookseller
When I entered Northon's, I was immediately greeted by proprietor, B. J. Northon, who gave me the lowdown on the store. Built in 1883, the charming old building which houses the shop has led many lives. Its most recent occupant was an insurance agency, but the property has also been home to a thrift store, a motor cycle chop shop, and a teen club. Upstairs where there was also once a bowling alley, B. J. now makes his home.

The floorspace for the shop is much larger than indicated by the relatively small storefront. Deeper than it is wide, Northon's has space enough for a nice collection of new and used titles along with some greeting cards and comics.

About half an hour down the highway in the slightly larger town of Clare, B. J. began his career as a bookseller. When he was only in the 7th grade, he had a kiosk from which he sold books during lunch time to raise money for the school debate team. Later when he was at Central Michigan University, he ran a bookstore selling paperbacks and comics. 

In 1976 he settled in Evart, raised a family, and did social work for the State of Michigan. His wife still works for an independent insurance agency in Evart.

On Labor Day weekend in 2002, Northon's Shire Bookshop opened for business, but B. J. has an interesting prior connection to the building. You see, aside from being a bibliophile, he also has an interest in music. He played drums and keyboard in a band that provided live music for dances held at the aforementioned teen center that once inhabited the bookstore's upstairs space.

Northon's is closed for most of the winter, but B. J. tries to have it open again by May 1, staying open through Christmas. As I arrived at the end of the day so near to closing time, my visit was brief, but I was certainly glad that I decided to turn around and take a closer look at Evart. You never know when or where you may find a friendly bookseller. I'm glad I didn't miss Northon's.

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