Columbus Bookshop Crawl 2019 – Columbus, Ohio
A 7-store journey for Independent Bookstore Day
In search of a special way to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, April 27, I was pleased when a Google search turned up the Columbus Bookshop Crawl. I immediately – dare I say hastily – booked a room, researched a route, and headed out of town. Columbus is around two and a half hours from my Charleston, West Virginia base, so I drove up the night before, ready to explore when the first store opened at 9 a.m.
Bookstore crawls have gained momentum in recent years, with this being the first organized crawl of stores throughout Columbus and its suburbs. Facilitated by The Book Loft of German Village, the daylong event spanned six stores, each with its own series of special deals, discounts, and offerings. In addition to The Book Loft, participating stores included Prologue Bookshop, Two Dollar Radio Headquarters, Gramercy Books, Cover to Cover and Fundamentals. A stamp card was distributed at each store, and visiting three of the six participants entered you into a drawing for, I was told, a pretty sweet gift basket. (I never got a call, so I guess I didn’t win. Oh well.)
My approach was easy enough to develop. Two of the shops – Cover to Cover and Fundamentals – specialize in children’s books, which wasn’t necessarily on my shopping list, so I decided to focus on the other four shops, perhaps hitting those two if I wrapped up early enough. But there was also the 2019 Ohioana Book Festival happening in town, and I wanted to make it there as well, time permitting.
My day began at Gramercy Books, located outside of Columbus, in Bexley. Arriving a few minutes before 9:00, I stepped into a long line at the attached coffee shop, Kittie’s Café. Before reaching the counter, however, the interior door separating the two businesses slid open. I left my traveling companion in line for coffee and headed for the books.
I’ll be expanding on each of these shops in separate blog posts (because they all deserve the love), so I won’t go into tremendous detail here. But, inside Gramercy, I found friendly staff who explained the history and scope of the shop (it’s owned by novelist Linda Kass and John Gaylord, whose family has operated the Little Professor Book Center chain for years). With an impressive inventory of new books and book-related gifts, an expansive children’s section, a reading area, and book-themed quotes adorning the walls, Gramercy is a lovely spot to visit and was a great way to kick off my day. Plus, I was able to bring my purchases back over to the café and enjoy my coffee in their covered outdoor seating area.
Next on my agenda was Two Dollar Radio Headquarters, a family-run bookstore, vegan café, bar, and event space operated by local indie press, Two Dollar Radio. This unique space successfully manages to be all these things without any one of them feeling slighted or poorly planned. Bookshelves and tables are scattered amid the café seating, with little wooden blocks providing insight into popular book titles. While admittedly a small inventory, the book selections seem well thought out and creatively arranged. Still on the caffeine buzz from Kittie’s, I skipped trying their coffee and headed on to my next spot: the famed Book Loft of German Village.
For years, people have been telling me to visit the Book Loft, so it was perhaps the most anticipated of my planned stops. And, my goodness, it did not disappoint. We’re talking a mazelike layout spanning multiple floors and 32 rooms of books, books, and more books, not to mention gift items, audio books, t-shirts, and more. There’s even several tables of books on the shop’s porch and outdoor area. Ample directional signage and printed store maps were only somewhat helpful as I wandered, in awe, from room to room, trying to determine if it were one I’d already visited – and not necessarily caring if I had. I chatted with one of the employees who told me he’d organized the crawl. And, judging by the considerable crowd, it appeared his idea was a solid hit. (Or perhaps the shop is always packed? I don’t know.) Given the massive inventory and older feel to the space, I was a little surprised (not unpleasantly so) to learn that the shop only carries new books – of which I picked up several.
Reeling from that rather immersive experience, it was then on to the popular Short North district for Prologue Bookshop, a vibrant and bustling store also carrying new inventory. New to the area, Prologue was reveling in the Independent Bookstore Day fun with an author signing going on, some cool freebies, coffee and massive donuts (which looked delicious, but it was too close to lunchtime for me to try). Handwritten notes were peppered throughout the shelves, with recommendations from the knowledgeable and friendly staff, each of whom hosts their own themed book club. They also recommended a nearby lunch spot, Brassica, which was as delicious as they said.
So, with my defined agenda and lunch complete by 1:00, I had a choice to make: visit the other two stores on the crawl, head over to the book festival, or follow the recommendation of Marjie from Prologue and drive north of town to visit another indie shop owned by her former high school classmate. We pointed the car north and continued the crawl, which, when all was said and done, led us to three more indie bookstores — Readers’ Garden, Paragraphs, and The Paperback Exchange — before arriving home at around 9 p.m.
All in all, my visit to four of the six participating shops in the Columbus Bookshop Crawl 2019 (as well as the three others I weaved into my exploration) was a delight from start to finish. Ohio’s capital city is full of eclectic shops and friendly booksellers, with each store finding its own way to fulfill that community-minded spirit of the indie bookshop. Here’s hoping the Columbus Bookshop Crawl only continues to grow.
As I said above, stay tuned for individual profiles of each of the stores I visited on my Independent Bookstore Day journey. Meanwhile, how did you celebrate? Tell me more in the comments!