Book stores that take you away from it all are the ones that people flock to.
They can be grand places carved out of old theaters, hospitable places that offer coffee, tea and bakery goods. They can be hidden gem's tucked out of the way, known only to the deepest of deep book lovers.
One thing they all have in common is they all take you away from the world in one way or another. It's a beautiful thing to see in our store!
Like a sought after novel, promising another deeply immersive experience, a used book store unfolds like a great novel, inviting you to another world, at least for awhile. And like books, with the hundreds of genres, and distinct audiences that like each, a book store that one person loves, may not be to the taste of another, equally avid reader.
What defines a good used book store can be listed and quantified by consistent tendencies. The ingredients and the recipe can vary though and book stores with a devoted following are as different as a savory dish differs from a sweet one.
Most used book stores, worth visiting, are ultimately judged by the selection of their books both in the breadth and the freshness. Whatever the niche, and there are many, we all want to see something new and different, each time we go to a favored store.
The feel of the store really goes to the presentation of the books, which includes the quality of the books, how the building looks (house, strip mall, big box, etc), the shelving and fixtures (no frills to luxury rare book rooms), and organization (messy and brimming with books vs. neat and orderly like a library).
A favorite store will match your station-in-life and as that changes, so does your favorite book store!
If you have kids, good luck getting them to the subversive, revolutionary store you loved in your teens and 20s. I can assure you, that when I was too-cool-for-school teenager, my friends and I were just looking for any sign of a life in a boring, suburban town and a cheery, place full of kids was not the store we were seeking. My favorite book store nowadays by contrast (besides Coyote Ridge, of course!) is completely tied to the most important things I want to do in my life and a big one is spending time with my kids. So my favorite store happens to be one my kids also love!
There is no one best solution or way a store should feel and a certain book store devotee wants a personal experience. But at the same time we value a consistency to that as well. In other words, if we go to a store over and over again, we've spent a lot of time trying to find it and now we found it, so we expect a similar kind of experience. A similar kind of different.
Our store is quieter and since there are eight rooms, you do get the sense of getting further away from the world as you browse around and go deeper into the store. We also emphasize a clean and orderly book presentation over "idiosyncratically messy." We do have sort of a messy room, and a lot of people hate it, to be honest, but some people just say, "Fun!" So a store can be messy and still awesome. It can be a lot of different ways.
Messy stores, with pencil pricing on the inside cover and books strewn about. Some people really, really like that. Some stores have `employees that sometimes make you feel like you walked into the plot of High Fidelity, where the employee bios on the web site include job titles like the "The Riff Hunter" , "The Vinyl Overseer" and "Don't Even Ask!." Stores like that, maybe started by the cool guy in your town, who knew all the great music, films and books before anyone else, they will attract customers who themselves want to be experts.
Stores like that will have have more vinyl albums, comic books and video games, and attract customers, who identify themselves as nerds, geeks or metal heads. The paranormal and fantasy sections will be a favorite part of a store like that. In fact I saw an employment ad for a local book store that played on that stereo-type and was actively recruiting people who wanted to express their inner nerdi-ness.
For our store we have an older audience, who like mystery series, thrillers and popular non-fictions. We also are a browsing store and the best customers bring a lost of books they are hunting for, hoping to find some in our collection. So we aren't going to blast loud metal music, for example because the feel and the setting, and our customers are attracted to the best parts of what we do.
The inventory of a store will naturally and organically change to fit how the store feels and whether it's open and welcoming or more of an exclusive club you need to earn your way in, the common factor is the event of the book store
There are seven or eight different things I think go into the event of the book store, but in the end that still doesn't add up to a great store. Hopefully, and mostly by luck, customers in their quest for a bookstore to consider as their store, will find a place where their taste and the taste of the proprietor overlap and a serendipity occurs which you can't really formulate, but you know when you see it.
The most devoted book store patrons of all, don't have a favorite store and to ask would be like asking them who their favorite child is. They love and respect all book stores and in the end, I'd be in that camp as well.