Monday, March 21, 2011

Death of a Bookstore

This past weekend, Mason and I traveled to the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  It is truly a beautiful place--one of my very favorite places on Earth. But the description of the Spahn cottage and outdoor scenery is for another time.  This particular post is about another favorite thing--a bookstore called Jabberwocky.

Jabberwocky is the coolest bookstore! Picture a large bookstore (like Borders or Barnes & Noble) with a local, eclectic feel.  It has a huge children's section complete with plush animals of Clifford the Big Red Dog and activity books that would be perfect to pick up while families are on vacation.  The adult fiction section is amazing--and has an entire section devoted to local authors and illustrators.  In addition to having a new and used movie section, it also hosted tons of "gifty" "bookish" items--the kind of thing you'd find in a Signals or Wireless catalog.  (Flannel pants with bears reading books in pine trees,  coffee mugs with clever sayings like, "balancing the books", or bookmarks in the shape of snowmobiles.)

Not surprisingly, I always looked forward to my trip to Jabberwocky.  Mason would usually pop in a movie, and I'd head to the bookstore where we both would be perfectly content in our separate places for two hours.  On Saturday, Mason & I both headed into town because we desperately needed some fresh coffee! (The drawback about a semi-stocked cottage is that you never know how long stuff has been in the pantry until you try it....which we did. Yuck.) When we walked into the coffee shop next to Jabberwocky, there was a small printed sign on the door that read, "Jabberwocky has moved down the hall--next to Bonson's entrance".  I was a little startled, but didn't think much of it and we headed down that way once we had brew in hand.

But when we turned the corner, my heart sank.  I seriously had a pang of sadness--like I had just heard some really bad news.  Jabberwocky was now in the old pharmacy-- a store about the size of our living room.  One lone employee was working (there used to be a bunch!) and the store was now only a minimal housing of few select books and movies.  I wanted to cry, and Mason noticed right away.  He put his arm around me and without saying a word squeezed my shoulder to show he knew how sad this was for me! 

I wandered over to the children's shelf (not section) and picked out a few board books for Charlie.  We paid for the books and chatted with the lady working--who told us they had moved on Halloween.  I thought to myself, what a cruel trick.  As we were leaving, I had such mixed feelings about the fate of my beloved Jabberwocky.  Afterall, I am the biggest fan of and online shopping. I love that I can find unique things online and have them sent directly to me while Charlie naps.  I love being able to access things only found in cities from my house next to a cornfield in tiny ol' Iowa.  But there is nothing better than a good bookstore with real books and people who love them as much as me.  And as they go away one by one across the country, I find myself wondering how technology and old-fashioned books can co-exist peacefully in a beautiful bookstore.  I am sowing seeds of hope that it is possible--though I'm not exactly sure how. 


  1. Karah, I feel the same way about books. I couldn't wait to get a great book for whatever stage my kids were in. I wanted them to love them too!
    You are so lucky to have that kind of connection with Mason!!!! Other men may not care so much!

  2. Boo! There is nothing like spending a chunk of time in a great bookstore - I'm so sorry for your loss. Seriously. It does bring up a personal sense of responsibility about how we are helping or hurting communities when we shop online. Hum..

  3. Yup!! I know what you're talking about. We lost the most wonderful bookstore -- Canterbury Books -- because of the big box bookstores and it was so sad. But since you live in Iowa, why not head down to Iowa City sometime and spend the day at Prairielights? BTW -- congratulations on being a blogger!!

  4. It reminds me of the way I used to feel about Books n Things in Spencer. I used to love walking in there and heading for the Laura Ingalls Wilder books when we would head back to visit. It's sad to think that the only book stores will be Barnes and Noble. Don't get me wrong, I love all that Barnes and Noble have to offer, but there is something to be said for a huge range, rather than what the publishers want to pay to push. Sometime when you visit Illinois, you will have to venture to Anderson's Book Shop in Naperville. It also has a special feel to it. Ahh, the feeling someone has who appreciates old fashioned books!