The first bookstore I’ll highlight in this series is the Concord Bookshop, right on Main Street in Concord Center. You have to picture what a Main Street would look like in a Norman Rockwell painting, modernize it just a tad, and you’ve got present-day Concord Center. Truly, drivers stop for pedestrians not only when they’re in the crosswalk, but also when they’re on the sidewalk near the crosswalk!
We can walk to the center from home, about a mile; often I have a parade of bikes and strollers with me, but we get there despite the circus! If you’re driving, there are meters on the street, and a few municipal lots as well. Unfortunately, public transportation is scarce, unless you consider the blue trolley that runs seasonally and stops at many historic sites around Lexington and Concord.
We have a routine of places to visit when we’re downtown; one of our favorite stops is the Concord Bookshop. They have three huge plate glass windows in front, with eye-catching displays. The windows are updated weekly, with themed windows, newly-published books, local interest, etc. In nice weather, the sidewalk in front holds several wheeled carts with overstocks and remainders to lure you in. You’ll find bookcases and tables in front, a large periodical section (have you noticed fewer and fewer outlets for periodicals these days? I’m talking about more niche titles, that you can’t find in the check-out line at the grocery store!), and gift items such as journals, greeting cards and calendars.
The center of the store has a small open area with some comfy chairs scattered about. This is where they hold author events – usually on Sunday afternoons. The current schedule is posted on their website. I’ve been to readings of The Air We Breathe with author Andrea Barrett, The Rope Walk with Carrie Brown and What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by local author Gregory Maguire … and I just learned he’ll be appearing again in December with his latest, A Lion Among Men.
The store has a wonderful children’s section toward the back; the booksellers here are as helpful and friendly as elsewhere in the store, able to put the fingers right on the book that I described as “the cat that is mistaken for a hat and travels the world” (The Three-Legged Cat by Margaret Mahy). The area is bright and accessible, with many outward-facing low shelves, so kids can see the covers! A back entrance leads from the municipal lot directly into the children’s section; this, coupled with a second register station makes it very convenient when I’m trying to keep the kids tethered to “their” section of the store.
The Concord Bookshop offers free gift wrap (our local toy shop does too, isn’t this a great time and money saver?!? The packages always look nicer when someone else wraps them!). They have a nice customer loyalty program too, with a local twist, of course. For every $25 spent, you get a Book Buck, which can be used toward a future purchase. Check out the pictures on the Buck – that’s a book, Henry David Thoreau, and a Minuteman who has put down his musket to read!
Like everything else in this town, the bookstore has its own history – it was founded in 1940 as a bookstore and lending library! There is a large section dedicated to local history and local authors, both classic and contemporary. The Concord Bookshop is now owned by three families and employs other booksellers and seasonal help (would I like a part-time job when all the kids are in school? Yes!)
One thing the bookshop doesn’t offer is any type of book discussion group. I was disappointed and couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t have book groups, it seems they could hold them in the same spot that readings take place. It occurred to me as I was finishing up this post – the sidewalks roll up and everything in the center closes at 6!
This isn’t a bookstore/café, but there are plenty of places to grab a cup of coffee and muffin (or more!) right on the block. Main Streets Markets, Sally Ann Bake Shop and Helen’s to name a few (just get there before those sidewalks roll up!). And ice cream, well, that’s another post in and of itself! If you’re heading this way, let me know and I’ll give you the scoop (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) on ice cream in our town. Just make sure you finish it before you head into the Bookshop!
Have any of you been to our town and visited the Concord Bookshop? A month or so ago the Boston Bibliophile mentioned it in a post about a Sunday afternoon outing; she seconds my comments about the helpful and knowledgeable staff (and the antique shops in town, there’s another draw for you!)