My Favorite Bookstores

  Bookstores are part of Main Street’s revival





William Shakespeare claims that the earth has music for those who listen. I assert that bookstores offer symphonies — plus plenty of lively community engagement — for those who read.

Books & Company, Oconomowoc

Books & Company sets the standard for longevity and reader interaction. The list of book groups on its website appears endless. From crossword fans to mystery lovers to wine Best Local Bookstores in Southern Wisconsin - Books & Company, Oconomowocaficionados, this shop has a reader club for everyone. Also, the book store offers story time for children, author events, a newsletter, plus it maintains its Facebook page consistently, posting information and images on a regular basis.

Community engagement is the bookstore of the future, according to The Boston Globe. In its recent article, “How Bookstores Saved Themselves,” the phenomenon of the rise, or reemergence, of local bookstores reveals that citizens have a desire to know themselves and their roots, plus converse about current topics, including book recommendations from seller-experts. Bookstores are a perfect, natural addition to a re-energized Main Street, and Books & Company was a leader in this change before anyone knew it was happening. When my girls were young, a stop at this place was a must; we’d have a bagel for lunch, then stroll through the children’s books section. It was a lovely afternoon excursion.

The Globe article goes on to say that the prediction of local bookstores’ death was a bit premature. One key to success, in addition to offering books, gifts, cards, and book recommendations from staff, is to offer a twist: Book stores are adopting the unique interests of their proprietors including food-and-book pairings, writer’s workshops, and crafting nights.

Books & Company is located on the southern edge of Oconomowoc in a bustling outdoor mall. It’s worth the detour every time I drive between Madison and Milwaukee.

   Ink Link Books, East Troy

The Best Indie Bookstores - Ink Link, East Troy, Wisconsin












Picture a December day, just before Christmas: Snow gently falling, with temperatures mild enough to discard gloves. The town square is decorated for the holidays, and the aroma of coffee tickles the nose. Such was my experience when I first visited Ink Link Books. The place is tucked next to 2894 on Main, a coffee shop that’s so much more than that; rather, it’s an oasis of delight that features hot beverages, grass-fed beef sandwiches, local-origin salads, and roasted carrot tacos. But I digress. Back to the pivotal moment when I met Ink Link Books

In its front window was displayed a gorgeous coffee table book: The Authentics. Fantastic! I thought. The tome was the perfect gift for my artist-daughter. Little did I know that more perfection was just inside the Ink Link’s front door.

My jaw dropped upon entering the space. Where — and how — had this miracle of a store happened? Murals decorated the walls, and a focal-point fireplace warmed my cheeks.Murals Adorn Bookstore Walls - InkLink Books, East Troy, Wisconsin What book-lover twilight zone had I entered? I spun around, jaw distended. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: A charming space, with narrow, Harry Potter-style passages twisting among rows and of books. Up-and-down cubbies aligned with specific genres, plus a front window with a curation of tempting tomes that, had I the trunk space, would have purchased en masse for many Christmases to come.

The shop is tiny, but not so much as you’d notice. It’s a visual and intellectual adventure, worthy of an afternoon’s drive from a distance. (After all, lunch is right next door, so it’s a two-for-one excursion.) I recommend it highly when one has time to spend at leisure. 

The place is a treasure, a throwback to the age of the little bookshop on the corner. Again, this speaks to the Main Street renaissance that’s happening in small towns. As outlined in Forbes, citizens want to connect with a local shop. The ability to converse about a product such as a book with a knowledgeable expert matters. Rather than purchase from an impersonal big box, buyers want a personal, unique experience. (Within reason, of course. Frequently, online convenience wins out.) But experts predict that Main Street is an exciting place for businesses to be.

More to come about local bookstores!

As I mentioned last month, writing about bookstores is my favorite blog post subject, so far. It’s worth a re-visit, too. I will write more about these wonderful places in upcoming blog posts.

April is my birthday month, so it fits that next months’ subject is gifts for writers.

Happy spring — and as always, happy writing.

~Tracey Kathryn, MA



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