Friday, March 23, 2007

A Refreshing Conversation in a Renovated Bookstore

While roaming about Denver today (it's spring break, which is all-too-quickly ending), I went into an old bookstore I have visited many times since living here. It used to be called Ichabod's--a strange name, since that means "God forsaken." The store had changed radically. There was a new name (which I forgot, but the address is 2 S. Broadway in Denver). It was more open, cleaner, and had old albums organized alphabetically at the front of the store. This was all good. The old store was claustrophobic and as musty as it could get.

So, I talked to the friendly owner, Jack, about the changes. He explained that he wanted to broaded the appeal of the store by increasing visibility, cleaning up the stock (some books had been stuck to the walls by mold), and displaying local art that could be purchased on the spot. He also spoke of "listening to the community" concerning what the store should be like. That seemed good to me. I spent some time inspecting the paintings on the walls, which were done by local artists. Most of them seemed hopelessly opaque and/or ugly, but some were not so bad. (Admittedly, I'm not an art critic, but still...).

I purchased an old Jim Hall album along with a Charlie Parker recording, each for $3. (I still have my 1973 turntable connected to an old stereo system.) I found a hardback edition of Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live in the stock. If it is there next time I go in, if it is still there, I think I'll commend it to the owner, given his interest in art--something Schaeffer was especially concerned with. (See also his Art and the Bible, which has been recently reissued by InterVarsity Press.)

What struck me about all this was the emphasis on local culture: listening to the community (South Broadway) and providing a place for artistic work. It wasn't a chain; it wasn't a box store. They played KUVO, the stellar jazz station of Denver. But rest room was "out of order," so I didn't stay as long as I wanted.


Ray said...

But [the] rest room was "out of order," so I didn't stay as long as I wanted.

Just don't take a book in there. They'll know.

Sounds like a great place. Reminds me of the Half Price Books that was in the town where I went to grad school.

Michael Russell said...

It does sound a lot like Half Price Books but, even more, it brought up memories of the old Tattered Cover back before they moved to their location on . . . where is it now? University and Speer? It's been too long since seminary to remember (20+ years).

The new store was (is?) spacious and modern, at least doubling the inventory they had. But something was lost in the move. Located on one of the nearby avenues, the old store had been smaller but felt and smelled like a bookstore: the main stacks were in the basement and every shelf was overflowing with books. The psychology section, where I spent a lot of money I didn't have on hard-to-find primary source materials that weren't required, had an old Freudian analysis couch and it was one of the few places to sit in the entire store.

Even though I enjoyed the increase selection at the new location, I found myself missing the almost-monastic setting of the old one. The old Tattered Cover lived up to its name and going there was like re-discovering a hidden treasure of forgotten wealth. Books - good books - are a repository of wisdom; a good book store should reflect that, I think.

Susan said...

small group and dr. mike, forget Highlands Ranch; the coffee is horrible and it just doesn't have the original Tattered Cover vibe. Try the one at the West End of the 16th street mall... plus, they have the best soup and sandwich with a book you can get anywhere. Its my escape on my downtown work days.