What are the best ways to celebrate the fathers in our lives? Should we gift gadgets? Wrap up some tasty home-baked goodies? It turns out that a leisurely afternoon browsing around our local, independent bookstore was the perfect Father’s Day gift for my literature-loving husband.
Growing and Changing
There’s just nothing quite like spending the afternoon surrounded by books as far as the eye can see—if that’s paradise, then heaven on Earth must be Toadstool Bookshop in Keene. Founded in 1972 by Willard Williams of Peterborough, the Toadstool Bookshops of NH began with inventory initially housed in a compact, 800 square foot space in Williams’ hometown. Over the years the business grew, with a second location in Keene opening in 1983 as one of the first tenants in the new Colony Mill Marketplace. A third location in Milford opened in 1989.
In 2016, the Keene store vacated their space in the Colony Mill in favor of a new location closer to Main Street. While the new space feels like it may sit on a slightly smaller footprint, the selection of titles is by no means diminished and there are still plenty of places to get comfortable and wile away the hours. The Keene store’s new digs also include an on-site Farm Café that serves up vegetarian and vegan fare including salads, sandwiches, drinks, and more.
Running brick-and-mortar-anything can’t be easy in the digital age, but the Toadstool Bookshops have weathered the storm of big-box stores, online retailer competition, and eBooks, among other trials in their decades-long history. One key to the company’s success, at least from my perspective, has been its willingness to adapt and change over time, always keeping customer and community connections at the center of their efforts.
A Lifelong Love
I’ve been a patron of the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene for most of my life. I remember spending hours browsing books there as a teenager, when the bookshop was still in the Colony Mill building. I loved to flop down with a big, coffee table book on one of the many comfy couches spread throughout the store and transport myself to another place and time. Sometimes these books—especially if they were heavily discounted—made their way home with me and still maintain a presence in my life today.
Now that I’m a parent it’s been wonderful to introduce my own children to the joy of book browsing. You know you’ve done something right when your teenager explicitly asks to go to the bookstore (it may be in her genes)! Although, to be honest, it can be somewhat dangerous (financially) to bring the kids there—did I mention that we all really love books?
Bibliophiles such as ourselves must find creative ways to feed our book addiction without going broke, and Toadstool offers the perfect solution in its used book department. On our most recent visit my husband pretty much cleaned them out of pre-owned titles on the topic of Tudor England, and I snagged a copy of Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus (one of my childhood favorites) for just three bucks. I’ve found so many beautiful, high-quality, pre-owned books at Toadstool, many of them out of print and hard to find, even online.
Best of Both Worlds
Speaking of online shopping, fans of the ‘buy local’ movement may be pleased to know that they can browse the Toadstool shelves and even place orders from the comfort of home! The Toadbooks website has a robust search engine that can find just about any book imaginable and tell you whether it is in stock at one of the shop’s three locations.
If a book isn’t in stock, you can order it and pay for it right there on the site, including audiobooks and eBooks. I’ve ordered several books this way, and since I picked my order up at the store I didn’t even have to pay shipping. If you set up an account, you can also create a wish list that others can peruse—a veritable guarantee you’ll always receive exactly the gift you want.
Shopping at your local bookstore keeps your money local, too—I love knowing my purchases help to support my friends and neighbors. If you don’t live near a Toadstool Bookshop you can find an independent bookstore near you by searching the databases at American Booksellers Association or IndieBound.