30 October 08 | Chad W. Post

In order to draw more customers to their (relatively) new downtown Grand Rapids location, Schuler Books & Music is trying to get a liquor license:

Fehsenfeld envisions adding beer and wine to his cafe’s extensive coffee menu, so bookstore patrons could have a glass with dinner, browse the books, relax by the fireplace and maybe listen to a live concert. As downtown condominiums have developed, so has downtown retail traffic, he said. Although the depressed real estate market has slowed new downtown starts for now, Fehsenfeld is positioning Schuler’s downtown location to move forward with it in the future. Western Michigan Business Review

Surprisingly, this article is a bit provincial and mostly concerned with new liquor regulations in a mid-sized city bordering the last town in American to lift its ban on MTV . . . But, the idea of adding booze to an independent bookstore is a pretty intriguing way that some stores could compete with the big box competition.

Having worked at Schuler Books & Music (this was the first bookstore I worked at), I can attest to the fact that the “experience” of being in a bookstore has always been of utmost importance to Bill and Cecile Fehsenfeld.

Granted, when I was there Schuler’s fiction section was easily one of the best in the country (I’m not exaggerating at all) and we were very good about customer service and special orders and all of the other things a great bookstore has to do well to be considered great, but, in my opinion, the thing that put Schuler over the top was the fact that it made itself into a destination.

Schuler was (and I assume still is) a place where people would come and hang out just to hang out. Or, toward the end of my time there, a place that featured regular jazz concerts (including the Vandermark 5) and other atypical book events in the performance space that they added onto the store. The location I worked at also had a decent (more than decent considering it’s in a bookstore) restaurant/cafe.

“It’s an interesting thing because it’s like a cheap date, in a way,” Fehsenfeld said of the weekly music performances. “It’s perfect for families with young kids — there’s no set schedule, you’re not committed for a block of time. I know a lot of people who, as couples, come out and just hang out for a Friday evening.”

And selling wine and beer would be a nice addition to the Schuler atmosphere. (And help people make spontaneous purchases? Man, it would be a bad idea for me to hang out tipsy in a bookstore . . .)

The idea of making a bookstore (or library) a “destination” isn’t necessarily new, and a lot of independent bookstore owners implement different ideas to accomplish just this. Expanding more in this direction seems to me to be a really smart idea for the future. Or for right now. With the economy all kinds of f-ed up, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a significant increase in the number of people just hanging out in Schuler on a Friday night . . . Like Bill says, it is cheap, it is easy, and—as is the case with a lot of indie stores—it’s a great place to meet interesting people, both in terms of the customers and the staff.

And although B&N/Borders have cafes, it’s not quite the same, and the atmosphere at those stores—despite all the puffy chairs and moderately interesting book signing—still isn’t that inviting, making the box stores the sort of place you go to buy something and get out. Or to browse by yourself for a bit and then get out. Even our local B&N’s “Community Room” is totally not conducive to creating a sense of community . . .


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >