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Katie Mohar


Shop Local: Independent Bookstores

Jul 13

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Text copyright © Katie Mohar. All rights reserved.

Independent Bookstore
Storefront sign outside an independent bookstore. Photo by César Viteri on Unsplash

Independent bookstores are a cornerstone of our communities. Fondly known as “indies,” these stores specialize in serving their own neighborhoods. Independent bookstores are places where families can make new friends with a mutual love for books, learning and social connection.

By supporting small businesses, you support your local economy. When those small businesses are bookstores, you play a role in building a thriving local culture of literature. Independent bookstores are usually small and nimble, meaning they typically excel at customer service. If they don’t stock the book you want, most indies are happy to ship it right to your door!

This week, I’m highlighting two independent bookstores that I enjoy visiting. Both stores are owned by female entrepreneurs who use their stores to share their love for books! Both stores are hidden gems, tucked inside quiet neighborhoods bordering busy metropolitan areas. The Thinking Spot is an independent bookstore located in Wayzata, a lovely lakeside city outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. Bound Books is a children’s bookstore located in Franklin — a beautiful, historically-rich city just south of Nashville, Tennessee.

The Thinking Spot — Wayzata, MN

First off, here is my interview with Rima, the owner of The Thinking Spot!

Independent Bookstore - The Thinking Spot

What makes your bookstore special?Rima: The Thinking Spot is an independent bookstore that is unique in its focus on all things science. Most general bookstores, independent or chain, carry none to very few science books. While there are genre-focused stores on mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, childrens, socially marginalized groups etc., there are only a handful of stores focusing on, what in my mind is the most important genre of all, Science.

Only when people see these books collected in one place like at The Thinking Spot do they realize how many great, well-researched, well-curated, well-written books are out there on any topic of interest to them. 

You can be entertained, engaged, and informed all at the same time. Today, when we are living so much longer, keeping our brains active and keeping up with the advances in science is imperative for a happy, productive life!

I love books and wanted to share that love with everyone else. I opened a science bookstore to fill this gap in the market in a way that best meets the needs of the community we are in.

Do you have any programs or incentives for kids?

Rima: We have several ongoing and one-off activities for kids of all ages. Here are a few:

  1. Bookclub for 8-12 year-olds
  2. Summer Battle of the Books – for 8-12 year-olds
  3. Science Storytimes for the 3-6 yr olds
  4. Workshops such as origami, robot-building, cubing, and 3D printing
  5. Other events such as reading with a reading therapy dog, summer reading Bingo, family board game nights, Nerd Night youth edition, Find Waldo city-wide search event
Independent Bookstore - The Thinking Spot

Why do kids need to read books about science and the physical world?

Rima: Science is behind everything and everywhere. Anyone who is curious about the way the world works, engages in science. The way science is isolated as one “subject” among many creates this impression that science is only for a select few. And that creates whole sections of the public that are left behind as our understanding of the world moves ever forward. 

Being curious, asking nerdy questions and aspiring to be a problem solver is not something you should get bullied for. Sadly, in parts of the US that is still the case – especially if you are a girl! This has created a society where the very people who will move the world forward and keep the world working are sidelined, whereas entertainers are revered above all else. We need to flip this dynamic on its head. One way to do this is to introduce kids at a young age to books and toys that inspire and evoke curiosity about the world around them and then continue to feed that curiosity as they grow older.  That is what The Thinking Spot aspires to do.

How do you help kids find books they love to read when they visit your store?

Rima: There are kids who have been introduced to the joy of reading early on. When they come in, they are curious and excited about discovering new material for their reading pleasure. I may help them find a particular topic or discover a new title, but I also typically end up learning from this group – whether it’s a new topic that I don’t have a book for or a new Author.

There are kids who read but are mostly reading what everyone else is reading. They come looking for very specific titles which I may not have. Most of the time, I don’t carry those popular books. What I ask them is to consider other books. Based on their interest and the last book they’ve loved we can usually find something with a STEM focus that they are willing to try. By carrying books with positive role models that are doing creative work and advancing society, my hope is to provide subtle reinforcement that nerdy is good, being smart is good; focusing on creating and building, and the scientific method are good in all aspects of life.

Finally, there are those that come in with “I hate reading” or “reading is boring”—dragged into the store by hopeful parents. Here we try to convince the child that they just haven’t found the right book yet. Finding out who they like and what they like and then finding a book in that area usually works. For example, the story of Frank Zamboni is a big hit with young hockey players.

5.) What activities or clubs do you have for parents and adults?

  • We have various book clubs currently active:
  • Smart Reads – a Fiction club cycling through Science Fiction, Climate fiction. Historical Fiction, Mystery and other Literary Fiction.
  • Business – A nonfiction club focusing on business/tech/Economics titles
  • Naturalist – A Nonfiction club focusing on Nature titles
  • We host monthly Nerd Nights. These feature three people from the community giving short presentations on topics they are passionate about.
  • Several times throughout the year we host Authors for a conversation and book signing. 
  • We offer workshops, such as Book Art 
  • In addition, throughout the year, we offer various events geared towards getting Adults together for a fun evening at the bookstore – such as Night at the Bookstore, Teacher appreciation nights, Board Game Nights and Science Trivia Nights
  • Lastly, we have hosted STEM focused Standup Comedy and full-length theatre productions.

Bound Books — Franklin, TN

Next up, enjoy my interview with Natalie, the owner of Bound Books!

Independent Bookstore

Why did you decide to open an independent bookstore especially for children and young  adults?

Natalie: I am a mother of four and have always loved reading to each of them.  We spent many hours during their childhood exploring libraries, finding our favorite authors and illustrators, and building our own home library.  After spending years homeschooling and falling in love with reading even more, the opportunity to buy Bound seemed like the perfect next step.  I am passionate about curating a space where children can explore, play, imagine, and dream.  

Why should kids discover stories in books – as opposed to finding stories exclusively in other mediums (like TV, streaming, movies and video games)? In other words, what makes books special?

Natalie: The rule I enforce at home and in the store is always ” read the book first.” The competition is strong with so many popular books finding their way to the screen. TV shows, series, and/or movies are often entertaining but they steal your imagination. When you open a book, you have permission to take the author’s descriptions and create your own imagery of the setting and the characters. Books allow the readers to enjoy a story that is oftentimes more detailed and exciting. Reading books empowers you to use your imagination, dream, and build a strong vocabulary.

Does it take time for kids to learn what kinds of books they like to read? How does your store help them figure this out?

Natalie: Yes. It takes time and effort. I often tell my readers to give the book the first 50 pages before making the decision to put it down. It’s one of the many reasons I love having children in the store. It takes several books, by different authors, to learn what you love to read. It’s important to walk around and look at different books, feel them, even smell them. At Bound, we love to learn what the kids have read, introduce them to books similar and different. We always encourage them to return to Bound and give us a book update and review!  

How important is it for parents and caregivers to read aloud to children – and what age is good to start doing so?

Natalie: There is never an age too early to read to your child.  It’s a beautiful way to bond with your child as you patiently wait to meet him or her! Reading together is important!   I also think that it is equally important to be an example to your child.  If you make it a daily habit, children will usually follow your lead.  As your child grows, their reading levels will change and the comprehension of stories can become more difficult.  It is always fun to start a book with your child.  Reading the first few chapters together of any book allows parents/caregivers to help organize and introduce new characters, setting, and plot.  This is a fantastic way to be involved in the child’s reading life, and gives insight into their new reading likes and dislikes. Book talk is a great way to start a conversation!

What makes your bookstore special? What sorts of events do you do in the store or in the community?

Natalie: I think every bookstore is special, especially independent bookstores.  Bound Booksellers & Gifts is extra special for children!  We are a small independent children’s book boutique with a curated collection of new books, from picture books through young adult. 

We also carry a selection of adult titles, as well as gifts, teas, stationery, and our favorite children’s wooden toys.

Bound is quickly becoming known for our unique courtyard with our wooden book nooks and fun whimsical wall mural.  We love to host all types of events from weekly kid fun craft/story time to adult book clubs, author signings, and more! 

Independent Bookstore

Tell me more about your special activities for children:

Natalie: We have theme-planned events most Monday’s at the bookstore. They include a craft/activity, coordinated snack, plus a storytime.  We also love having community heroes (firemen) and fun with animals (Reading with Bunnies and our black lab, Jax.) Or, sometimes fun pop-up events (chalk the courtyard is one of our favorites—with popsicles, of course!)

We love hosting events, including a good, book-themed birthday party—Harry Potter being one of our favorites to host!

We offer a monthly subscription called the “Bound Book Box” and a gift registry!  If your child has a birthday approaching, we invite them to the store to create a gift/book registry and then offer a QR code for their friends and families to use to view their gift picks. And we always have story time on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 11 am. 

What were a few of your favorite books to read as a child?

Natalie: My mom read to us every night before bed. I have many favorites, but what sticks out the most is our collection of Golden Books. 

What are your favorite independent bookstores? Is there one you would like me to feature, speak at or visit? I love hearing from readers! Drop me a line!