Mo’ Love for MO’s Main Street Books

Alison Morris - November 2, 2007

Greetings from Lincoln, Nebraska, where Gareth and I are paying a brief visit to my nonagenarian grandparents. Before coming here we spent a short time in Missouri, visiting my best friend, her husband and their two-and-a-half-year-old, and stumbling upon an independent bookstore in the historic city of Saint Charles, the second oldest city west of the Mississippi.

Main Street Books, formerly housed in a small school building, now occupies a cozy two-story brick space on a wonderfully preserved/restored Victorian street. I enjoyed browsing the store’s shelves, admiring their wonderful space, taking note of their unique book sections (e. g. Pioneering Women!) and talking with knowledgeable bookseller Betty Barro. But the thing that made me especially keen to feature this store was their clever use of one particular space — the kitchen in what was once an upstairs apartment. Rather than pulling out the cabinets and appliances as most stores would do, Main Street Books has left them in place and merchandised around, in or on them, creating a clever and unusual retail display space that works especially well for featuring (among other things) cookbooks! I took photos so you could see it for yourselves.

Below is a shot of the Main Street Books storefront, which faces a brick street that will soon be crawling with holiday carolers, Victorian Santas, and tourists galore. (The whole of Main Street gets into the holiday spirit during the annual "Christmas Traditions" celebration.)

As you enter the store and look toward the counter, your eye travels across two levels and up to the high, high ceilings that make the first floor seem bright and airy. I love that there’s so much to see but it doesn’t look cluttered. See the six steps on the right-hand side? You travel up those to get to the children’s section. To the left of what you see below is a steep wooden staircase that leads to the second floor.

Pictured below is the children’s section (board books, picture books, and non-fiction) on the raised level at the back of the first floor. The books’ bright colors stand out nicely against the exposed brick walls.

I love the idea of displaying books in the top lid of an old trunk, like the one in the photo below. What’s implied here is that each of these dinosaur books is a treasure!

It’s nice to see so many face-outs in the children’s non-fiction section:

The photo below gives me window envy. This is one was taken from the children’s section, looking toward the front of the store. Notice the staircase on the right.

Up the stairs we go, and head straight into the middle-grade section, where bean bag chairs offer shorter readers a place to relax:

If you turn your back on the middle-grade section and cut a bit to the left, you wind up with this view of the second floor, looking out at the street:

Turn your back to the street-facing view captured above, and voila! The store kitchen! Note the Christmas books that have been shelved (a bit haphazardly, as they’re probably coming in faster than they can be displayed!) in the kitchen cabinets. And, yes, that’s a stove on the far left. (There’s a refrigerator there too, but it didn’t fit within the frame of this photo.)

On the right, cookbooks:

In the center of the kitchen (and visible from the middle-grade section) is a nice face-out display of young adult books:

Heading back downstairs:

And here’s a nice parting shot of the front of the store, taken while peering over the stairway railing and waving goodbye to Betty, at the front counter below:

Thanks, Main Street Books, for a great visit and some creative inspiration!

7 thoughts on “Mo’ Love for MO’s Main Street Books

  1. ShelfTalker

    Carterbham, The store is a general bookstore, so they carry books of all types, for all ages. They advertise themselves as specializing in local history, Western history and children’s books.

  2. Kay Winters

    What a wonderful picture you gave us of the Main St. Bookstore in St. Charles, Mo. It looks like the kind of place you could spend days in! Hope to get there this summer.

  3. Alexis O'Neill

    Oh! I love the photos of Main St Books in St. Charles! I visited there from CA for the first time last September. Not only was the store a joy to be inside, but the owner, Vicki Erwin was a joy to work with when she provided books for my author visits in schools. I can’t wait to go back and spend more time browsing!

  4. Maggie Preiss

    Believe me, everyone in St. Charles County loves Main Street Books and adores Vicki Erwin. At the St. Charles City-County Library District we appreciate a wonderful partnership with Main Street Books. Vicki shares ideas, authors, and events as well as keeping us up to date on local publications. One of our best children’s services meetings ever was held upstairs next to the kitchen! Vicki gave us all of her display & marketing secrets! You are all invited to visit, enjoy and READ in St. Charles County!!!


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