I visited the Village Bookshop the other day. It has been one of my favorite haunts during the 28 years we’ve lived on the northwest side of Columbus. Located within ten minutes of our home at 2432 Dublin Granville Rd in an old, white-sided church building, this has been one of my favorite bookstores. For nearly 50 years, the Village Bookshop, which occupies the old Linworth Methodist Church building, has served locals and visiting bookbuyers alike. I picked up my Dumas Malone’s five volume biography of Jefferson here many years ago. Recently, I read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Road, and C.S. Lewis’s The Personal Heresy. All of them came from the Village Bookshop.
And now it is closing.
Owner Gary Friedlinghaus and his wife Carol, who took over the store 37 years ago, told the Columbus Dispatch, that changes in the public’s book-buying habits and a declining supplier base has made the decision necessary. He describes his decision as a “judicious retreat.”
There was no place quite like it. At one time, the store had an inventory of as many as four million books, nearly all new, and apart from some old and rare books, discounted 60 to 90 percent. The store was known for its selection of military prints and books. As a bit of a Civil War buff, I found more than a few good books there, as well as many other finds in their history section. They had a great selection of paperback classics, many for under $4, often older versions of Oxford Classics. My latest acquisition in this section was Faulkner’s The Reivers. The biographies table toward the front of the store was always a stop, as was a featured selection of books toward the middle of the store. I often stopped at the religion section just to the left of the featured books and before the passage to the back annex. Just through that passage was a four-sided set of shelves with books under $2, mostly old paperbacks. I made a few finds here over the years! Fiction occupied most of the back of the store on the ground floor. On my most recent visit, I picked up novels by Chaim Potok and Sharon Kay Penman that I haven’t read.
The upstairs was a world to itself, in the back annex of the building. One half seemed to be overflow from downstairs–more history, sociology, and fiction, including science fiction and fantasy. The other half was old books. Some were plainly there on consignment. On a recent visit, I happened into the fiction section when a customer was loading up an old set of Sir Walter Scott novels. A part of me wished I’d gotten there first (but where would I put them?).
Lori, daughter of the owner indicated that the building might be preserved and occupied by a different kind of business instead of being converted to apartments, like much of the area across the street. It is a historic building, built in 1887, for what was then Bright’s Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church. One hopes this will be the case.
The store will close its doors for the last time on August 31. When we were there, books were being discounted 20 percent off their already discounted prices. You could see the shelves were thinned a bit, but there was still a great selection of books. I might be back another time or two–but maybe not, and so it was time for this tribute of sorts.
Earlier this year, another favorite haunt, Acorn Books in Grandview closed. It is hard to see these independents going. It is sobering to realize that the number of those like me who not only love books, but the serendipitous fun of finding something you weren’t looking for on the shelves of a bookstore, seems to be dwindling. Book culture seems to be in the process of being stripped down to searching for the book we want online, ordering or downloading it, and reading and deleting it, if we read at all. For the sake of speed and convenience, we are sacrificing a richly textured culture with unique places like Village Bookshop to homogenized chains and online sites–and not only with regard to books. Will we wake up one day to realize that our local towns and villages have become banal and boring places–just like everywhere else? Or will it matter?
6 thoughts on “Farewell to an Old Friend”
Bob, thanks for this reflection. It had the feel of a eulogy for a longtime friend who will be missed. When I think of my favorite book store, in my own community (Hearts and Minds) I hope they will be able to avoid this fate. While I am grateful that the “wine of books” still is available on line and through internet purchases, and that people are still reading, there are some wine cellars (sellers) that will be sorely missed.
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I’ve never had the chance to visit Hearts and Minds (have ordered from them). I nevertheless hope you are right. They are a national treasure!
So true! Is the disappearance of independent bookstores in town after town the harbinger of a new Dark Age–the loss of a bit of civilization itself?
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I think so. Part of our preference for the virtual over the real.
Much to lament, we lost significant used bookstores in Lancaster, PA. I used to spend hours in them when I was in high school and college. No doubt part of Byron Borger’s appeal and the long term sustainability of Hearts & Minds Bookstore has been his ability to extend the small town bookstore to many current / prospective readers via conferencing (especially Jubilee, but also many other venues) and online communication. And yes, Byron has a great store! You should visit Bob. I don’t live too far away. We could have some time together in the store and for conversation afterward 🙂
In Lancaster County, PA, I have appreciated finding books for sale in several small town / city coffee shops. One had a few shelves from an online bookstore (I believe that it was for used / reduced books). The online store tried to have an actual physical store in a small town. Although they didn’t last long, the coffee shop next door turned out to be a good second option. I’m not sure how the relationship has panned out in the long term, but it was a great idea.
Libraries are very popular in our area. Over the past several years they have increased their programming (including reading groups many times tied to guest lecturers) across age categories / interest groups. Some of us with “libraries” and extra books in our home become stops for those seeking to borrow resources. . . . I recently had a book returned to me which was “checked out” for nearly twenty years by a student. I hadn’t remembered that it was “on loan.” Most books I loan to students I consider on “permanent loan.” But the loan had been on the student’s mind for years and he had been waiting for the opportunity to return it. He happened to be in the area 🙂
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I would like to make a pilgrimage out your way some time. I’d enjoy the chance to see you in your element as well as to visit H & M.