Monday, January 14, 2008
Every small town used to have a dime store. Now convenience and big box stores have taken their places. Five years ago, Lee, Massachusetts still had Johansson’s. When I was growing up, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin had Ben Franklin’s. Somebody attempted to resuscitate Johansson’s under a new name but it was gone within a year. The old name and an updated concept might have had a chance. Now that building is vacant. The dime store in Fort Atkinson turned into a carpet and tile showroom.
At first glance, there appears to be a Ben Franklin dime store in Oberlin, Ohio. There is and there isn’t. I suspect the familiar Ben Franklin sign is still on the building because everyone in town expects it to be there. It doesn’t resonate as loudly as a vintage Woolworth’s sign might, but it works. Inside, instead of finding tired variety store stuff, there are several independent retailers sharing the space to market their wares. That's where I found MindFair Books.
Used book stores seem to be headed in the same direction as dime stores, victims of more efficient business models. My friend Neill Cameron has suggested an enterprise should be as inefficient as it can afford to be. Since the new bookstore model maximizes efficiency, I reckon the old model still has a fighting chance if the proprietors embrace their most useful inefficiencies: know where all the books are and then encourage Serendipity to make herself at home in the stacks. I am happy to be directed to the books I am looking for and positively delighted to find books I didn’t know I wanted. And I will go back to the places which surprise me.
Winter's Tales by Isak Dinesen was great find. In it she draws the reader close and then heads into timeless lands. The stories it contains are perfect for winter evenings with a warm hearth as a companion.
Winter's Tales was Dinesen's third book published in the US. This edition was printed in 1942 and contains some interesting notes. Some things do change.