Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Just Books

I found a lovely new bookstore in Webster Groves, Mo. It is called Pudd'N'Head Books and is owned by an attorney-turned-entrepreneur named Nikki. She came home from Brooklyn and has set up shop in the Old Orchard area of this quaint little town.

The bookstore and I met each other through a tiny little ad placed in our local paper, The Webster-Kirkwood Times. I was intrigued because like my coffee, I love independent bookstores.

My youngest daughter and I made a trek out there one cold afternoon just before Thanksgiving. I was pleasantly surprised to see just what I wanted. There were books, books, and more books. Not a magazine or journal or newspaper in sight! She has a great kids section and even a cozy seating area. She captured my heart when, tucked behind the generous counter, is a mini coffee bar! She makes a mean mocha and even named a drink after my daughter Keziah who requested caramel in her hot apple cider. The non-caffeine drinkers can be happy with her loose tea selections and since she is open until 9pm, she sometimes features wine or beer tastings.

The location of Webster University gives her much fodder for book and event tie-ins. It seems as if St. Louis is really into the arts of any form and bringing in speakers. She expertly keeps up with local speaking events and if there is a book tied to it, the book will be in the store.

Just in time for the holidays, she is featuring letters to Santa. That is perfect for book lovers like me who relish the touch and feel of a brand new experience. On my wish list is Toni Morrison's new novel, A Mercy. There is something magical about actually receiving a book instead of a gift card so Nikki allows one to come in, fill out a wish-list and mail it. She keeps everyone's name and even gives out hint-cards to gently prod those who just don't know what to get the book lover for the holidays. I love it.

I think the best thing about this store that has made me an early and fast loyal customer is the service. That is something that has been missing in retail. I hate the malls and all the big stores with their fake smiles. I like it that Frank at Kaldi's knows my preference for the French Press pot and that I like steamed milk. I love it that they put together a fruit and veggie kiddy meal for my allergic daughter and don't charge me more. My favorite baker, Reine of SweetArt, does authentic, bake-from-scratch cakes that make my mouth water. She recently did a special request from my newly minted five-year old. No boring flip books here! I love entrepreneurs. I love it that Nikki recently took my email order for my son in the Navy and even offered to split the shipping cost with me as a thank you for my business. The very fact that I email her and she emails back is one of the reasons she will have my business, even with the monster-sized Barnes & Noble that just opened in West County Mall.

Books and I are best friends. I'm currently reading a fun one, Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle, and a serious one, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. On my reading list for 2009? The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke, Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas, Joplin's Ghost by Tananarive Due, Coming Unglued by Rebecca Seitz, Race Matters by Cornel West, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and A Mercy by Toni Morrison.

When I think about innovation and what will get this country out-of-recession, I don't think about the greedy, compulsive CEOs who want $10MM bonuses despite destroying their companies, I think about the Reine's, Frank's, and Nikki's of this country. There is hope, and I will find mine eating a cupcake, sipping a latte, and reading a book.

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