A beautiful bookstore in Dubuque

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I love locally owned independent bookstores. They’re not only great for a city’s economy–as websites like IndieBound will tell you–they are also a reflection of the local culture, people, reading habits and thought.

River Lights Bookstore Photo

When I reached handwritten postcard number 100 in the stack I’m sending out to bookstores telling them about “The Sun Singer,” I was curious about the store getting the postcard. It’s River Lights Bookstore, 2nd Edition on Main Street in Dubuque, Iowa. They have a website and a Facebook page, so it was easy to learn more about the store.

They also have something else that chain stores can’t match: a wonderful historic building. The “Second Edition” in the store’s name comes from the fact that when the original store closed, some of the folks involved created a new store down town.

On June 1st, 2007, the new River Lights Bookstore opened in a beautifully renovated historic downtown building at 1098 Main Street. The wooden floors and tin ceilings of this 1870’s building offer an inviting atmosphere in which to browse or connect with fellow booklovers.

River Lights Bookstore photo

As the former chairman of my town’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), I was happy to see the “adaptive reuse” of the old building. I wish the store would include a note on its site saying what the building originally housed. By the look of it, it could have been a small manufacturing operation. According to Dubuque’s website, the city has an HPC that oversees the historic districts and historic properties. Doing this is also good for the local economy; and, of course, it strengthens a community’s sense of its own past history and architecture.

River Lights looks like what a bookstore ought to look like: a vibrant operation with excited book people in the perfect setting. If I lived in Dubuque–a three-hour drive from Batavia, the small town where my father was born–I would be shopping at this store every week.

I have no idea how many weeks it will take my postcard to travel from northeast Georgia to 1098 Main Street in Dubuque. Probably several weeks. Chances are, the card will be swept into a stack of Baker & Taylor, Ingram and other catalogues where it might sit for another several weeks. Somebody might actually see it, pause, and think, “hmmm.”

“Hmmm” is fine with me, assuming they can read my handwriting which, suffice it to say, was getting a bit sloppy when I reached card #100. Otherwise, I’m glad I looked up the store where the card is headed. For a preservation-minded writer, the website is a real treat, and imagining what it would be like to shop or attend book club meetings in River Lights 2/e is wonderful to imagine.

Each copy sold benefits Glacier National Park!

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