Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bookstores in Buffalo

Found a central spot to set up camp Tuesday and headed to Buffalo, NY. The first book store I ran across was Rust Belt Books. I had walked in and looked through an aisle before I remembered to go back and put a coin in the meter.

The atmosphere was "college town," with decor consisting of paper posters of local events taped to the windows and bare concrete floor, clientele with tattoos and peeking midriffs enjoying the stacks of books. And I mean stacks - sometimes books were the furniture. Books filled the place. A few boxes held new and interesting acquisitions that hadn't been priced yet. Simple wooden shelves about chest high turned the middle of the 1-room store into a pleasant maze, each dead-end nook furnished with a cast-off wooden chair to help with scanning the lower shelves. Easy to navigate, lots of subjects. As a potential bookseller I was thinking, low overhead, inventory coming in, a seemingly steady flow of people - and it's been here more than a few years.

I asked about an old dictionary that wasn't priced, and the proprietress looked it up. It was about 1890s and I soon realized that I'd get a retail quote, without my researching it, so I didn't buy it. I picked up a Science Fiction Book Club edition of Friday and a guide to Sci Fi authors.

I had been excited about visiting the Old Editions Bookstore. Their website showed a two-story store with cafe and I pictured myself enjoying lunch, surrounded by great selections and the buzz of people. I parked in a parking deck and walked in, immediately impressed by the giant map behind the young man at the desk. Unfortunately, they had closed down the cafe except for a rotating case of ancient pizza and bottled drinks. The place was empty.

The decor was very nice, as if professionally done. And they had artwork on the walls - for sale at three-digit prices. I scanned the shelves downstairs and started noticing the prices. Upstairs wasn't any better. They had 1980s works by Alex Haley and Barbara Mertz set at $25, books that are going on e-bay for about $8 lately. I could go on with examples of high prices. I kept scanning, but it wasn't fun. As it seeped in that nothing was going to be a bargain, the joy of the hunt was gone. I saw one other customer walk in the whole time I was there, but two employees. High overhead to run this big place, I thought. There were no chairs.

I was surprised to find a few Quaker genealogy books, and shocked to see one priced at three-digits! Did they really expect a lot of Quakers from Virginia to come sauntering through a bookshop in Buffalo? They even had one of Olive Goodbody's works, a skinny collection of Dublin will abstracts that I would have loved to take home, but not at $75. I walked over to the lady at the upstairs desk and asked if prices were negotiable. She told me she could take off 10%. I thanked her for the information and kept browsing. She came up to me a couple more times with tidbits of information; I think she may have called the owner at one point. Last week, they had a sale, she said over her glasses, 25% off of everything, the first time they had ever done that. Of course you did, I thought, smiling politely, because you're dying.

I left empty-handed, without even getting a lunch. The shop was like a stereotypical library: very quiet and with a great selection of collectible books, that they really don't want to part with.

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