Stratton Street Bookstore – Logan, West Virginia
I was born and raised in the small coal town of Logan, in southern West Virginia – a town that was full of homespun charm as a kid, but noticeably devoid of a bookstore. (We did, for a time in the early 90s, inexplicably have two comic book shops.) So it wasn’t until my family made our infrequent treks to the capital city of Charleston, an hour or so away, that I was able to develop my love of bookstores. Today, fortunately, that has changed. Thanks to a former lawyer with a passion for reading, my hometown does indeed have its very own indie bookstore. And I had no idea.
I stopped into the popular Hot Cup coffee shop on a recent visit home and asked the owner if there were any book shops around. “Yeah, right across the street,” he said, pointing out the window to a small, unassuming storefront.
My drink in hand, I quickly headed across the street and stepped into a shop that was…completely empty. I browsed the quiet space for a good ten minutes before a friendly gentleman holding a Wendy’s cup appeared.
“Oh, I didn’t realize anyone was in here,” he said, introducing himself as shop owner Michael Esposito. As we began talking, I was surprised to learn that Michael opened the downtown store in 2015 as a personal passion project, albeit to little fanfare.
“I’ve always thought we should have a bookstore here,” he says. “I told somebody before I opened, I’m going to answer this question: do people not read because we don’t have a bookstore, or do we not have a bookstore because people don’t read?”
And while he admits traffic is slow, his passion for books has resulted in quite an eclectic inventory. You won’t find any new releases at Stratton Street Bookstore. All the items are used and pulled from Michael’s expansive personal library, as well as books and magazines collected by his parents over the years and donations from customers, resulting in a rather unwieldy collection – one that can be difficult to organize. Inside the small shop, which is painted rich, vibrant blues and oranges and divided into various rooms, customers will need to dig through stacks and piles of books in loosely categorized sections.
“It’s not as organized as I’d like it, but it’s getting better,” Michael says with a laugh. “When I first opened, I had no organization whatsoever. A cookbook was next to a Bible, next to a sports book, and so on. I thought it’d be fun to just come in and see what you can turn up, but apparently I was the only one who thought that was a good idea.”
Several of the shop’s bookcases now have handwritten labels, such as biography, cookbooks, history, and religion, to name a few. Meanwhile, a large fiction section fills the back room of the shop, while a children’s room contains books, toys, dolls and a piano. Mixed among the books are old records, CDs and cassette tapes, accounting for the “More” portion of the shop’s “Books and More” window signage.
I noted that I wasn’t aware that the shop existed, let alone had been open for several years. “I’m one of those people who doesn’t know how to turn on a computer, so I keep forgetting about all this new technology,” Michael says in response. While his daughter set him up with a Facebook page, he hasn’t done any other marketing or advertising. And the Facebook page isn’t necessarily active. “The electric typewriter was the last technological innovation that I’m familiar with.”
Customers won’t find much technology in Stratton Street Bookstore, but they will find plenty of charm, plenty of books, and plenty of Appalachian hospitality in Michael Esposito. And while the shop only accepts cash or checks as payment, don’t worry – there’s an ATM right around the corner.
Stratton Street Bookstore is located at 214 Stratton Street, Logan, West Virginia.
UPDATE: Michael passed away in April 2022, and Stratton Street Books closed.