Saturday, June 23, 2012

Touring Bookshops and Other Places along Central Vermont's Picturesque Route 7

Otter Creek Used Books - Middlebury VT
Rutland VT to Burlington VT is about 68 miles. The trip along Route 7 would take almost two hours as the road is not exactly a super highway. But, in the pursuit of book shops along the way, I managed to turn it into a five hour journey. Once we got to Burlington, some rain showers emerged and we dodged into and out of the shops downtown – where of all things I found another book shop. (My wife suspects I knew it was there all along; but, it really was a surprise.) Our return trip to Rutland, where we were staying during this visit to Vermont made it a long day. But, I would say it was a satisfying day.
On the way out of Rutland we had breakfast at the Midway Diner, where the eggs benedict featured a great Canadian bacon. The traditional looking diner is something we look for when we travel and this one didn’t disappoint. We scooted out onto Route 7 after we ate and took off north.

It took about 25 minutes to travel 17 miles north to Brandon, where we stopped at the Briggs Carriage Bookstore. Sadly, it was closed. And according to the recorded message on the telephone it is permanently closed. I don’t know exactly when this happened, but it was certainly sad to discover this bad news at our first stop. So we plunged on to hopefully better results up Route 7.

On to Middlebury
Our next stop was Middlebury, about another 20 minutes on Route 7. The Otter Creek Used Books shop is now at 99 Maple St. It gave up its Main Street location and I really like the new one. It’s a bit hard to find at first, as you have to turn down a tight driveway, but it’s worth it once you get there. The owner claims it’s still not really organized the way she would like it, but trust me when I say, it’s way ahead of a lot of other places when it comes to sorting and labeling.

I especially liked some of the walk-in closets that featured various categories, such as gardening and antiquarian. I found a signed copy of Bookbanning in America by William Noble. It was a bargain, which I confirmed on the Internet when I got home from vacation. I also found The Path to Power by Margaret Thatcher for $5. This book is her account of her personal life and how she became involved in politics. Reviewers claim it’s better than her book, The Downing Street Years. I’ll keep my eyes open for that one too.

Further up Route 7 about two miles was Monroe Street Books. The warehouse appearance, both outside and inside, seems appropriate as the shop is co-located with a storage locker company. It appears that the biggest customer is the book shop. Over 80,000 books are stacked on shelves so high you need a ladder to get up and read the top rows. I found Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger for a reasonable price and it turned out today all political books were on sale with an extra 25 percent discount. Dallek’s known for his writing about Kennedy, Johnson, Reagan and Roosevelt. I can’t wait to read this one.

Time for Lunch
I had to promise my wife that the next stop would include lunch. So, we headed to Vergennes and the 3 Squares Café, still on Route 7. This place was classic small town Main Street café. The tables don’t match. The chairs don’t match. The open kitchen behind the deli-style glass front counter gives the impression of a cafeteria, delicatessen, coffee shop and bistro, all in one. Don’t forget the local brewed beer. And I didn’t. It was great. So were the sandwiches. When my wife ordered the Mimosa, we saw the waitress run down the street to buy some Champagne. The drink came in a tall water glass instead of the traditional six ounce flute. The freshness of the ingredients and the presentation was gourmet, without the gourmet price. It’s a definite repeat stop for us.

Alas, there did not appear to be a book shop, but along Main Street one of the shops, which appeared to be a consignment place, had a sign declaring books by the pound. They were selling books by their weight. The price was two pounds of used books for a dollar? This I had to see. And sure enough, stacked up on the floor, tables, shelves and everywhere they could find a spot were books. And in the front window was a scale for you to determine how many pounds of books you were hauling.

It turns out we were in the Sweet Charity resale shop. Proceeds from the shop support families in need locally. Their website is sweetcharityVT.com. Their motto is “if you are downsizing keep us in mind.” I don’t know if the books are a one-time event, or if they sell books on a regular basis. But, if it goes on regularly, it’s a great place for bargains, while doing something helpful at the same time. I took quite a heavy load out myself, including Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor and David Brinkley, a Memoir.

Full of pastrami, beer, and books, we took off from Vergennes toward Shelburne, about 20 minutes further up Route 7. In Shelburne, we stopped at the Flying Pig Bookstore, which is in the same building as the Bearded Frog Bar and Grill. You have to give them credit for two eclectic retail names. Flying Pig and Bearded Frog?

The Flying Pig carries about 40,000 volumes and has a tremendous focus on children’s books. There seemed to be a lot of variety and the store was well organized. The shop publishes its own newsletter, Pig-Tales, which features books for kids, by age group; books written by Vermont authors, and other categories. To publish a 16 page quarterly newsletter is very impressive. It’s definitely worth reading. Shelburne is a destination all to itself. You could spend more than a day here taking in the sights. We will be back as soon as possible.

On to Burlington
The final leg of today’s trip was 15 minutes north to ‘Burlington. We’ve been here before and it’s always a delight to visit. The open air Church Street Marketplace is what we wish all downtown’s looked like. The traffic is limited to a few cross-over points, but essentially it has become a walker’s paradise. The shops and cafés overflow onto the brick sidewalks and plazas giving a chance to everyone to enjoy the fresh air, the sun and the general hustle-bustle of a vibrant marketplace.

We took advantage of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop, as my wife has made Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz her favorite. As we continued our rounds we found the Crow Bookshop at 14 Church St. In previous trips I hadn’t really bumped into the place, but I liked it very much. They are mostly a used book shop, but they have new titles as well. The used books are 50 percent off or better and the new books are also discounted. I got Darwin’s Armada by Iain McCalman for $12. The cover price is $29.95. That’s definitely more than 50 percent off. I also got The Canal Builders by Julie Greene at the same discount.

So, at the end of the day our One-Day-Bookstore-Tour took us to four great book shops. Although one of the planned stops was closed, we found an unexpected one to fill out our dance card. I will tell you more about the book shops right in Rutland and along our other routes as we toured Killington, Fort Ticonderoga, and other spots during this vacation.