Other than browsing cooking stores and grocery stores, moseying around a bookstore is one of my favorite pastimes. I don’t mind hanging out in the major chain bookstores (Borders or Barnes & Noble) but I prefer independent bookstores.
Knowing what I do about the publishing world, I have a keen sense of appreciation for what it takes to own and operate a bookstore. It’s tough. Whenever I travel, in addition to seeking out the coolest restaurants, cooking stores and grocery stores, I look for the independent bookstore.
Near downtown Austin is a fabulous, funky independent bookstore called Bookpeople. It is one of the largest independent bookstores I’ve seen, almost twice as big as our Tempe, Arizona independent gem, Changing Hands.
What struck me as cool about Bookpeople was their merchandising. Sale books are up front. Walking in the front door, you can’t miss the mothership of an information desk, manned with helpful, smiling employees. Yes! Smiling! Imagine that!
The two-story store is obviously about books, but they also carry a wide variety of gifts — bags, pens, stationary, cooking utensils — in the cookbook section, of course. I was amazed at the variety and depth of non-book products. The magazine section was also one of the largest I’ve ever seen.
Returning from the bathroom, I found this antique barber chair tucked in a corner. It was occupied most of the time we were browsing the story store, but just before we left, I dashed back upstairs and it was empty so I snapped a picture. Clever. Unique. Just like the rest of the store.