Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bookstores That Started Out as Something Else

One of my favorite bookstores is located on the tiny island of Galiano, just off Canada’s westernmost coast. It’s a small store for a small place -- Galiano’s year round population tops out somewhere around 1100 -- but the store’s renown stretches far beyond the confines of the island.

Unofficial bookstore mascot, 
Meow Meow, shown here keeping 
his typical sharp eye on the operation. 
David Middleton photo.
Situated in a charming old house on what passes for Galiano’s main street, Galiano Island Books is owned by a brilliant, well-traveled and educated couple for whom owning a vibrant bookstore was a dream and is now a passion. The store is staffed by intelligent well read individuals who offer opinions on what they have read and liked as well as what they figure you might like, as well. The store is small, but stuffed to the rafters with well-chosen inventory: the former living room houses the main collection. What might once have been a dining room is home to books for kids and a solarium off the back offers a great spot for the readings the store offers often and with pride.

Is the fact that this exceptional store is housed in a non-traditional venue part of its successful formula? I couldn’t say for sure, but there’s something about walking into that homey, bookish space -- especially on a blustery winter day -- that is indescribably comforting and customers invariably talk about the experience... and come back.

This was all brought to my mind a few days ago when Flavorwire ran a piece on “10 Awesome Bookstores Repurposed from Unused Structures.” I love the premise and the way it gets one thinking:
Despite the media-fueled fear that they’ll all be abandoned buildings themselves someday soon, brick-and-mortar bookstores are also recycling spaces, cleaning out old factories, theaters and even boats, and filling them up with books. What could be better? 
Indeed! You can see Flavorwire’s 10 contenders here. Meanwhile, do you have a favorite bookstore in a repurposed or revitalized space? While we’re not sure that anything could ever compete with Hudson, New York’s The Spotty Dog Books & Ale (books and ale under one roof? Hooyah!) but our ears are open. If you have a favorite, let us know about it!


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