When I was a boy there was a small bookstore in the shopping center across the street from my development. My middle-aged brain had some difficulty retrieving the name, but a quick appeal to my Facebook community quickly solved that problem. Bookland (Thanks Ann!) was within easy walking distance of my house. And walk there I did, on an almost daily basis. Long rows of a variety of shelving, some metal, some wood, reached from the speckled tile floor to the ceiling. Aisles so narrow you had to press yourself back against the books when another customer wanted to walk past you. Green metal footstools on squeaky wheels for customers who needed assistance with that hard to reach tome. And the smell. An intoxicating blend of aging paper, glue, and imagination. It is how I have always thought a bookstore is supposed to smell, like a repository for books and ideas and not the corner Starbucks.
I spent many an afternoon wandering those aisles, sitting on those footstools with a book in my grubby hands. It was in those narrow aisles that I first met Bilbo Baggins, Moby Dick and Mrs. Frisby. On that scuffed tile floor I glimpsed the magical land of Narnia for the first time and I met Meg, Sandy, Dennys, and Charles Wallace and learned that yes, there IS such a thing as a Tesseract. It was crowded, dimly lit, had a few water marks on the ceiling tiles and when it rained that wonderful bookstore smell took on a distinctly waterlogged tinge, but I loved every square inch of it. It was the point of departure for my young mind’s journey into the uncharted waters of literature, a journey I have been enjoying ever since.
Here at Litstack we love our independent booksellers, so much so that this is the kick off post for a new series called Indie Excellence, Litstack Loves our Indie Booksellers. Litstack contributors will use this series to share the wonderful independent bookstores that they love to lose themselves in. We hope that by doing so we will not only bring recognition and business to these hard working people, but we also hope to have what will be a travel guide of sorts here on the site when we are finished, a global sampling of bookselling excellence any traveler can use to guide them to the doorsteps of these worthy, independently owned, stores.
The rise of Borders and Barnes and Noble spelled the end for many of these kinds of book stores. But thankfully not all of them. In the state of Delaware there are still several excellent independent bookstores in existence. Between Books, the Hockessin Book Shelf, and the Ninth Street Book Shop are all excellent and I have spent many hours wandering their aisles, talking to their owners, enjoying the book loving perfection you simply can’t get in those huge book retail environments. They represent all we love about independent book stores and time spent browsing their aisles is time well spent. When I thought about what bookstore to features as we kick off our series about our favorite indie stores, one stood out in my mind from all the excellent local choices.
Browseabout Books has been a staple along Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware since the mid-seventies. Capably run by Steve and Barbara Crane for the entirety of its thirty-six year life span, Browseabout is a must hit destination for thousands of beach goers who flock to Rehoboth every year. There aren’t too many independent bookstores where you could possibly bump into the host of project runway, a co-host of Good Morning America,the governor of the state of Delaware or even the Vice President of the United States, yet Browseabout hosts many best selling and renowned authors throughout the year.
Within a few blocks of the waters of the Atlantic Ocean itself, there are an ocean of options within the 13,000 square feet of shop space in Browseabout that will make you forget you are even at the beach. The store keeps an excellent selection of stationary and beach memorabilia in addition to a top notch coffee shop on one side. The other half of the shop houses the books, a huge selection of titles from current hardcover and paperback bestsellers to a “gently used” section and everything in between. They have a huge children’s section stacked full with books and educational toys, which my daughter absolutely loves.
Steve and Barbara Crane have owned and operated Browseabout Books since 1975. They both agree that the backbone of their success has been the community they have been a part of for thirty-six years. They tell me that they consider themselves fortunate to be in business in a small state that has the potential to be the best in everything. This helps them strive to be the very best bookstore they can possibly be. They are heavily involved in the local community, which is comprised of a small year round, local population which sees large influxes of people in the spring and summer months. This can make sales consistency difficult over the course of a year. They sometimes see Browseabout as a sleeping giant, always ready to wrap its welcoming arms around the customers who find their way in from Rehoboth Avenue, whether it be during the sweltering heat of the summer or the middle of the deep coldness of the winter.
Steve and Barbara, along with their employees, are committed to defining & redefining Browseabout as the retail climate and the book industry itself continue to go through enormous changes. They have lived the very essence of the American Dream by starting a small business and working 36 years to make it better every day. They love the community, they love book selling, and they love the opportunities afforded them to make a difference in our state.
If you ever find yourself anywhere near the great state of Delaware I encourage you to make Browseabout Books a must see destination. It is a jewel in the crown of a wonderful beach community that has been around since the late 1800s. And that bookstore smell, the one I described in the opening paragraph? Browseabout has that too. That intoxicating smell of a mass of books, eagerly waiting to be read. At Browseabout not only can you discover that aroma, you get the added undertone of suntan lotion and ocean kissed breeze mixed in as well. Combine that with excellent customer service, a serious commitment to the local community, and a devoted passion to the written word and you have a formula for success that will be around for another thirty-six years and beyond.