Contributed by VisitKenosha.com
“The beauty of a used bookstore,” according to NovelTea Bookstore owner Sandra Reynolds is “you just don’t know what you’re going to find.” Melissa Calliari, store manager, agrees. She describes a visit to the Downtown Kenosha bookstore as “a treasure hunt every time you come here.” The shop is a combination bookstore and tea shop, as it merges Sandra’s two loves. “I love books. I’ve always loved books,” she says. She has her own large book collection at home. When Kenosha was without a bookstore, she saw the need and opened the store in September of 2011. One who appreciates the cover art of books, framed covers adorn the walls of the shop.
From floor to ceiling, fiction and non-fiction books fill the store, located at 5700 Sixth Avenue. Every category imagined is covered: mystery, religion, sci-fi/fantasy, romance, war/espionage, family/relationships, health/fitness, art, classics, young adults, westerns, children's, true crime, humor, military, history, politics, biographies, cookbooks, animals, music, crafts/hobbies, sports, and more. "Our books are all used. We get our books from all over the place," Sandra says. When she first opened, a large quantity came from a bookstore that closed. Part of Sandra's own home collection was also brought to the store. She admits, "it's hard for me sometimes to sell the books." Melissa agrees that it's hard for Sandra to let go.
Other ways the inventory continues to rotate and refresh: estate sales, and donations from people who are downsizing or moving. And still other books come from customers trading in their books in exchange for a store discount. Books are already sold for half off of the publisher's price. If you trade in a book, you get another 25% off a book. So you're basically purchasing a book for 25% of the publisher's price!
Sandra says they're always looking for different books. "I rarely turn down a box of books, because I don't know what treasure is in it." There is limited space. So at this time, the store doesn't accept Harlequin books or encyclopedias, except for Golden Book Encyclopedias. Also, books that are traded in need to be in relatively good, readable condition. Hardcovers are still accepted.
Romance and mystery are the two big sellers, with many romance writers writing romance mysteries. Even with the technology choices today, Sandra and Melissa say books will always be around. "You own it forever," Melissa says. Books can also be more forgiving than electronic devices when it comes to getting wet or covered with sand at the beach.
Always a reader, Sandra prefers non-fiction. She likes to read about comparative religions. She also likes old-fashioned, cozy mysteries like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, as well as Harry Potter. Melissa favors science books, Anne Frank books, autobiographies, and the books from the 1980's she remembers reading as a kid (including The Baby-Sitters Club series).
What distinguishes NovelTea Bookstore from other used bookstores? They strive to build their autobiography and vintage book collections – books that you might not find in other places. People often look at vintage books for nostalgic purposes, to bring back childhood memories! The store tries to specialize in out of print books, and old sci-fi books. NovelTea has a relatively large children's section compared to other used bookstores, which was important to them.
Not all used bookstores offer multiple copies of the same book. They do, because they never know if a book club will need multiple copies, or if a movie is coming out based on a book. Sandra says it's a balance – to see what sells, what's popular, if a movie is coming out, and so on.
Oh yeah, and there's a tea shop inside ...
Tea is the fastest growing beverage in the United States, according to Sandra. Given there was not a designated tea shop in Kenosha, she included one in her bookstore. Offered are: 56 different blended teas – black tea, green tea, white tea, and more – as well as a selection of organic herbal remedies and more than 40 different organic herbs. All are available in 2 oz. packages. Not wanting to limit themselves to one source, the products come from four different master blenders from around the world.
Also available are un-sweetened, organic, micro-brewed bottled teas, served cold out of the bottle. Those seeking an herbal, medicinal approach to life especially like these. In addition to the house blends, packaged teas are available – the Talbott Teas and Tea Forté brands. When all is said and done, a total of about 80 different teas are available and this area continues to grow. There are seats for you to sip your tea while you read a book. Also, tea accessories (mugs, teapots, and the like) and Kenosha souvenirs are available.
At the time of this interview (October 2014), two major changes are in the works. The Romance Annex will be opening soon. The romance section will move south of the current confines of the store. Comfy chairs and just the right lighting will create a cozy space for reading! Moving the romance books allows for the tea section to expand. Green tea smoothies, special organic blends, and tea lattes will be offered. Different offerings than any other place around, they promise!
"I think Downtown Kenosha is beautiful," Sandra says. "We're by the harbor. I live downtown. So to open a store downtown was something I always wanted to do. I would like to be a part of the revitalization of the downtown." Sandra has lived in Kenosha for about 25 years now, while Melissa grew up in Kenosha.
Melissa remembers coming downtown as a child with her mom, and how the bookstore building was the old Woolworth building (Woolworth's was a five-and-dime store that closed in the early 1990s after nearly 80 years in business.). Sandra notes if someone hasn't visited downtown in awhile, they need to visit. She cites the cute shops, art galleries, and restaurants that are downtown. It's a "beautiful area, I love it."
Next time you're downtown, visit NovelTea Bookstore. It won't be hard to find the shop – it's the one with the books out front! That's because, as weather permits, there's a sidewalk sale going on with good deals. Say hello to Sandra and Melissa as you browse!
VisitKenosha.com | November 2014