Chamblin Bookmine and Chamblin’s Uptown – Jacksonville, Florida
A multi-level used bookstore so large that it necessitates handwritten directional signage pointing lost wanderers to the staircase? Yes, please.
A recent business trip to Jacksonville, Florida, put me a few blocks from Chamblin’s Uptown, a two-story bookshop with an attached café. I promptly carved out some time between conference sessions to make the short hike to the shop and stepped into quite the welcome respite.
The shop’s setup is arguably my favorite style of indie shop: row after row, aisle after aisle, of tall shelves stocked with books on every genre imaginable – and then some. The handwritten signage extends storewide, with brightly colored cards boasting such section titles as “3 Rows of Racing” or “Beat Lit,” among hundreds of others. Poetry is shelved alongside camping books, LGBTQ books are next to UFOs and Aliens. The second floor contains plenty of literary classics. I was pleased to find a section devoted to my favorite author to seek out in these explorations: L. Frank Baum’s Oz series. Meanwhile, non-book items like games, CDs, and DVDs are plentiful.
I picked up a couple of titles before making my way to the café, dining on a delicious breakfast bowl and cup of coffee. But the exploration wasn’t over.
A chat with the bookstore clerk revealed that the Uptown spot is only one of Chamblin’s locations: Chamblin Bookmine, even larger than the Uptown spot, is about 10 minutes away. So the next afternoon, I called up an Uber and headed across town, where I ran into the same clerk from the Uptown spot.
The expansive, one-story store that is Chamblin Bookmine boasts an even more impressive collection of titles than its sister store (if that’s even possible). During my time in the shop, donations were pouring in constantly, so much so that a donation counter is operated separately from the sales line – itself consistently at least two people deep while I was there. Some older, collectible titles are locked in a cabinet at the front entrance, where I hovered over some Oz books before the clerk was freed up to help me, allowing me a nice vantage point to keep an eye on the action.
The mazelike layout of the Bookmine certainly lends itself to an “explorer” approach, with so many nooks and crannies it’s difficult to remember which aisles you’ve been down. And some aisles are stocked so full of boxes yet to be unpacked that their shelves aren’t even accessible.
Both stores have the look and feel of a neighborhood staple from years back. The story of Chamblin’s dates back several decades. In the mid 1970s, Ron Chamblin, a technical writer, opened a small version of the Bookmine with 15 boxes of books, expanding over the years into the impressive shops operating today, as well as an active online store where more valuable and collectible books are sold. In true indie spirit, Chamblin’s is very much a community hub, hosting book clubs, readings, and local art displays.
While my reason for being in Jacksonville wasn’t necessarily thrilling, the discovery of these two wonderful independent bookstores made it all worthwhile. Here’s hoping work (or perhaps a prolonged bookstore exploration) takes me there again soon.
Chamblin Bookmine is located at 4551 Roosevelt Boulevard, and Chamblin’s Uptown and Café is located at 215 North Laura Street in Jacksonville, Florida.
Visit chamblinbookmine.com for more.