The month of October was host to the Fall Into Books tour, a collaborative effort across four counties to increase awareness of and attraction to 14 community bookstores. The event offered a 10 percent discount to all purchases made during the month (if you were a tour participant), and a passport that could be stamped at each location. At the end of the month, the passport could be turned in at the last bookstore participants visited, and each stamp was an entry into a drawing for some prizes offered up by each participating bookstore.
As a person who loves books, loves reading (two different things – people who merely like books like them for the aesthetic), loves driving and loves her best friend, this Messenger Post reporter went on a cross-county tour with her best friend, Rebecca Snow (a fellow bibliophile), to explore some book offerings across Monroe, Ontario, Wayne and Yates counties. Here’s what we found, what we liked, what we didn’t like, and what we think.
"I just shop at Barnes and Noble because it's super convenient and it usually has stuff I'm looking for. They have the more modern stuff that I'm looking for. You don't know what you're going to find in a used bookstore, which can be rewarding, but when I go to Barnes and Noble I know I'm going to find what I'm looking for," Snow said. "So I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and explore the independent stores that exist around New York, and maybe find one I definitely want to come back to once in awhile, or if it's closer, go back to multiple times."
Travels were made to eight stores the first weekend, starting at the furthest place and then circling back to home base, which was in Chili Center. The furthest bookstore, Books Landing at 9 Main St. in Penn Yan, was an hour and a half away, but could have been closer if there was more available pocket money for tolls. Which there wasn't.
Books Landing was tucked away, nearly invisible compared to the row of stores it was squished in-between along what seemed to be the main strip in Penn Yan. It gave off the "hidden gem" vibe, as the store didn't disappoint in terms of its offerings, layout, and friendliness. There was a great selection of books – children's books, fiction and non fiction, mystery, romance, western books, and it even got specific with its western, politics and royals selections.
For a small store with a mere three rows of books, and entire aisles dedicated to westerns, romances and mysteries, there was still a great selection to choose from. Our only qualms were there that the aisles were relatively small (which isn't any sort of deal breaker in terms of bookstores Bex and I want to consider a long-term relationship with), and that the bookstore only accepts cash or check – no credit cards! Books Landing is worth the drive, and is being given a 9/10 rating.
"It was a homey, independent bookstore. It's like the epitome of small business. It was so cute!" said Snow.
Next up was Longs Cards and Books, at 115 Main St. in Penn Yan – right down the street from Books Landing! It was busy and bursting at the seams with everything – two aisles of the store were dedicated to literature, and the rest of the store had magazines, crafts, office supplies, jewelry, party supplies, you name it. The store gave off a community-run Barnes and Noble vibe. It had a lot of available genres, and many new releases.
This is where there's a disagreement (gasp!) – in the book section, there'd be shelved books, and then books stacked in front of the books, cover side-out. It made it so that you had to move every single book to see what was behind those books, and it wasn't arranged in a way so that the book that was on the outside was stacked against other copies of the book. I, personally, did not like the effort I had to put in to look at a ton of books, but Bex didn't mind. Overall it's being given an 8/10 - for the not large book selection (for what was a bookstore tour), and due to the fact that the employee didn't have any idea what the Fall Into Books tour was, and I was not about to walk out of there with that brand-spankin'-new signed copy of John Green's "Turtles All the Way Down" without the 10 percent discount.
"I think you got it right, about how it's a community Barnes and Noble. It felt very corporate compared to that small, community feel," said Snow.
It was baffling as to why, exactly, Stomping Grounds, at 41 Seneca St. in Geneva, this one-fifth of a bookstore, was on a bookstore tour list. A very, very small portion of the store was dedicated to books (hence the one-fifths reference), and they were all ancient, expensive volumes that only a small contingent would even consider buying. Who out there has an interest in, and the $650 to invest in, the complete works of Keats and Shelley? Anything that could appeal to a wider audience was targeted more toward the hipster crowd, a wide but terrifying group of people. With the overpriced everything – quirky soaps, inspirational paintings, antique pins, books about specialty wines and randomly placed typewriters for that vintage feel – the store seemed to cater to a very specific, not particularly universal, audience, even in the $1 sales shelf. This bookstore is to be given a very generous 4/10 – quantity, atmosphere, and lack of universal appeal count against it, but it gets an extra point because I got a hilarious graphic book about cats.
Snow reiterated: "It didn't have a lot of what I'd be looking for, personally. It had some interesting stuff ..."
Paperback Place at 82 S. Main St. in Canandaigua was a huge step up. This store really gave off that independent community bookstore feel. It was bursting with people, happily shopping from the huge selection of books. The store was bigger than it looked, as it also had a spacious back room with even more books. It was well organized, with labeled areas and even a couple of maps around the place to show where everything could be found. The more recently released books were right at the front of the store, with the older and used books more near the back. There was also a sale basket of books that had way more interesting options for people to choose from. The woman at the front was also very welcoming, funny and a terrible influence, as she tried to get us to break our "one book per store" rule. Shame! (Not really.) 10/10 for closeness to home base (compared to the other places), the welcoming atmosphere, the selection and the nostalgia we felt when we found the Heartland and the Sweet Valley Twins series in the back of the store.
"It's up there with Books Landing," said Snow. "I liked how it had a combination of old, used, and new books. It's not just one or the other."
Time to Explore! The Bookstore at 18 E. Main St. in Clifton Springs. The, in our opinion, ideal bookstore. There were places to sit and read, which was a HUGE plus, and it was warm, inviting, comfortable and spacious. It was very open and airy, but there was a lot more to the eye than you could see, everything from new books to old classics. It was well decorated, and the owner was incredibly friendly and helpful. What more can be said? This store was also worth the drive, and a store we could see ourselves going back to. 10/10; would visit again.
The Dog Eared Book at 208 E. Main St. in Palmyra was high, high, high on our list. We will definitely, without a doubt, be back to this store! It had books ranging from old collections to local interest, gardening, pets ... a little bit of everything! It was friendly and roomy, and crazy inexpensive. There was a section dedicated to Harry Potter swag (with candles that smell exactly the way you always imagined Butterbeer would smell), journals, puzzles and more. There were also adorable candles that were book-themed. We were obsessed with this place, and only left because there were two other stops on the list! 10/10 recommendation!
On the other hand, the Village Bookmarket, at 207 E. Main St. in Palmyra (right across the street), was, personally, a disappointment. Almost all of its offerings were old books that maybe a 24-year-old (like me) but from 40 years ago might want. Or a 24-year-old whose 50-year-old parent raised them on those older books. There was a large variety of genres, but they were all old. We did like, though, that there were places to sit, as well as a lot of Wayne County pride and swag! We can always appreciate a store with pride in its roots. We gave it a 7/10 because while I didn't have any personal interest in the store, it didn't ostracize all audiences and would still be a great location for a lot of others – just not me! You can't like everything!
Should we even bother going to the other six stores on the list? Because Books Etc., at 78 West Main St. in Macedon met and exceeded all of our expectations. There were three bookstores in a row above with a 10/10 rating, so we didn't exactly have higher expectations. But boom, we have our only 11/10, absolutely-must-go-to-this-store on the list: Books Etc. It had everything, and not just a great book selection. It had atmosphere, places to sit, the nicest book owner you will probably ever meet, and cats. CATS! It is exactly the way I imagine the Ravenclaw common room being. The owner of the establishment is what really made the trip. She was nice, friendly, offered us free coffee and tea for being first-time customers, and talkative (in a nice way!). The store was eccentrically decorated, but not in a bad way! There was a little bit of everything there, even a pile of free books, and books wrapped in brown paper, which were called "Blind Date with a Book." On the covering was a little description saying what sort of reading situation the book would be good for – curling up with a blanket and tea, for a nice day outdoors, etc., and they were only $1 each! The books were so reasonably priced, and the store was so amazing that it's been three weeks and we haven't stopped talking about it. We have a crush on this bookstore. 11/10.
Day two of our bookstore jaunt did not disappoint. We didn't visit a single terrible bookstore on the list (which is the dream, right? You don't want bad bookstores on the list!).
We started at Yesterday's Muse Books at 32 W Main St., Suite. 1 in Webster. Walking into Yesterday's Muse was like walking into a library, which was great, because we love libraries. I don't know why Arthur and Francine freaked out in that TV show when they got locked in a library. Meanwhile I'm watching like, "Uh, yes please." Anyway, it was that kind of library feel – the one you can spend all day in. It was bright and simple, spacious with a lot of nooks and crannies that had books set up in a pleasing and uncomplicated way, making it easy to find what you want, where you want it. Selections ranged from the old, old, old books to brand new options. There were new and used books that were very well priced.  Another plus: Plenty of places to sit, especially if you're with someone like Bex who takes significantly longer than you do to pick out books. 10/10 recommendation, because we got an extra 10 percent off just for being added to the mailing list! It is also decently located, amazing offerings, and had a calm and inviting atmosphere.
Making our way back to downtown Rochester, the next location was Mood Makers at 274 N. Goodman St. in Rochester. It was primarily books, with little things here and there for purchase like postcards, figurines, little toys, and more. We consider this a "hidden gem" as well, as it's in the North Goodman Street building that has a ton of little shops in it that seems to get overlooked a lot. There was a lot to offer, but prices were pretty standard for books – which isn't a bad thing, per se, but after going to so many stores with so many cheap books, it was a bit of a shock to see $15 books. There were, however, great sections for discounts – $10 autographed books, $1 paperbacks, and 4-for-$15 books, and all of the books that were on sale would please a wide range of people. Overall, a 9/10 rating.
Small World Books at 425 North St. in Rochester was more than we expected. We walked in to a tiny, tiny little entryway and could go right or left: we chose left. We walked into a room that connected to another room, and both areas had old wooden shelves, with old dusty books, and very little room to navigate. While there were a lot of interesting things (arts and crafts, politics, history, etc.), they weren't what we were looking for. Next room! There it was so much brighter, so much bigger, with a lot more things of general interest: poetry, drama, photography, fiction, non fiction, children's and more. There books were also pretty decently priced — the cheapest book purchased was $6; the most expensive, $10. There was a mix of older to newer books within each genre. 8/10 rating from us!
Greenwood Books at 123 East Ave. in Rochester was a great reason to venture into a part of Rochester where we don't normally find ourselves. Everything we found was in the $8 range, but even for hardcovers and newer books, that's still a pretty great price. It's looks tiny when you are outside and when you first walk in, but once you make your way past the front of the store, the stacks make it look like it goes on forever. There's a huge selection of every section, and the store was really easy to navigate. A number of people could fit into the aisles comfortable. The woman at the register was incredibly friendly – a lot of people seemed to stop by just to talk to her. It reminded me of the library in the Harry Potter movies – tall bookshelves that need stools for accessing the top, that seem to go on for miles. We easily could have spent hours there. There were a ton of things we were interested in, but by that store I had $12 left and had to make it last! Worth it, though. We gave it an 8/10 based on location (crazy traffic), noise (near a lot of downtown festivals), and no parking (trying to find parking on the street outside the store was a nightmare — the East End parking garage, however, is nearby).
We had incredibly low expectations for The Book Centre at 42 Slayton Ave. in Spencerport, to be honest. The last time we'd been there which, admittedly, was years and years ago, the store was dark and dreary, and the stacks of books were unmanageable. The books were set up in piles horizontally, and there would be piles in front of piles in front of piles. It was impossible to find anything! Well, no more – The Book Centre has undergone some huge improvements! The aisles are spacious – no more are there huge stacks of books piled hip-high on the floor! The books are still in piles horizontally, but the shelves are now only one pile deep (there are only a few shelves in the store waiting to undergo the de-cluttering process). It was so bright in there compared to before and best of all, the books are insanely, crazy cheap. Not that we got to peruse the whole store, but the most expensive book I saw was $3.50. Areas were labeled, there was a lot of books to choose from, and the staff was crazy nice. 10/10 for you, Book Centre!
Finally, sadly, the last store on the list: the Lift Bridge Book Shop at 45 Main St. in Brockport. It was here that we said goodbye to our passports after the final stamp. There are two levels to the store, and it, like Longs Cards and Books, also gave off a community-run B&N vibe. There were books, mostly new and mainstream, at standard book prices (around the $20 range), as well as toys, games, crafts, school supplies, art supplies, you name it. Downstairs was the bargain area, where I was able to buy one book with the pitiful $6.53 that remained after the other five stores that had been visited that day. Even the used and discounted books, though, were universally loved ones, like Jodi Piccoult, and even some book series. It was a great store to end our journey with! 9/10, since there was hardly any parking on the street, and had to park far behind the bookstore.
So – was it worth it? Absolutely, yes. We found a ton of amazing bookstores that we will be visiting over and over again – especially since one is right down the street from where I work and will probably be the reason I end up in financial ruin. I ended this journey with 33 new book babies to cherish. I justify this to myself with hey, at least I got the 10 discount. I could have paid more.
If Fall Into Books becomes an annual event, we highly recommend that people try it out. It was so much fun to explore new places, and find local places to support that would have newer releases as well as old classics (to us, at least) that we forgot about, or never knew about. We also plan on making a run to Books Etc. on the last Sunday of every month, and even some others on this list!
Some might think that we may have been too generous with our 10/10 ratings, but the places that were put on this list were put there for a reason – because they're awesome! All of them had something different and unique to offer, and we love them for that. We'll be seeing you all again, some day, in the future! We hope those stores see you guys, too! You're missing out!
Neither Messenger Post Newspapers nor Amanda Dedie are being paid for the endorsement of these bookstores, and Dedie's opinions do not reflect the opinion of Messenger Post Newspapers. This is a personal review with hopefully helpful information for those looking for cool community bookstores to visit, and the author is aware that while some stores didn't have what we'd be looking for, there are also people out there who would love those bookstores for what they offer.