What is it about neighborhood bookstores that invite us in out of the rain?
Growing up I remember ducking in to Elliot Bay Books in Pioneer Square when the skies would open up. I remember the smell of split pea soup and dark roasted coffee that would creep up the stairs from the basement café. When I was teaching, my favorite weekend getaway to grade papers, was Powell Books in Portland, Oregon. I would sit for hours and read essays. When my back would ache, I would wander into dusty corners and find a new poetry collection or an antique book of spells that I would bring back to my classroom on Monday for inspiration.
Then we had kids and the idea of sitting lazily in a bookstore, browsing new releases, seemed like another life. Eventually, we moved to Bainbridge Island and discovered Eagle Harbor Book Company. Not only did their evening lectures, give this mother of three a dose of culture when I needed it, but on so many rainy days, we ducked inside, sat in the brown chair, and read while the storm passed.
Last month, we left our apartment in Rome on a bright, sunny morning. By the time we got to the Vatican, sheets of rain clouded our vision. We tried to finding shelter under porticos, but they were packed with tourists already, and we were soaked to the bone! As soon as we spotted the bookstore, we knew we had found our respite. All the books were in Italian, but the sense of belonging was the same. No one rushed us, no one had to say “No Purchase Necessary,” we just knew.
It seems that many of our neighborhood bookstores understand that success is tied to how people feel about the space they are in because the titles can just as easily be purchased elsewhere. We always end up spending money because the feeling is that we are free to stay as long as we please, at least until the storm passes. What a novel concept!