While perusing the charming downtown streets of Lexington, Virginia, I found it very easy to get lost in the magical little town. Littered with small businesses, restaurants, and eccentric stores, Lexington is the perfect home to the small independent bookstore, The Bookery.
Seated comfortably between the Lexington Pet Place and the Mountain City Masonic Lodge, The Bookery makes its presence immediately known with the large black awning that displays its name in white block letters. As an avid reader, any location with the word “book” in it immediately piques my interest. When I stumbled upon The Bookery, I was drawn to the cluttered front window, chock full of flyers for book-related sales, signings, and releases, as well as signs for upcoming town events. If the books displayed in the front window didn’t catch my eye, the sidewalk sign that read “We have a LOT of books” certainly did. And the sign doesn’t lie!
Upon slipping out of the morning sun and into the bookshop, I was greeted with tables and shelves overflowing with books of many genres. The front table felt as though it had no particular order as it was cluttered with fiction, nonfiction, history, cookbooks, and novels in other languages—all of them present on just that first table. I knew this was a place I could easily spend hours and hours in.
Venturing further into the store, I scanned the towering wooden shelves that were stacked high with books. The shelves seemed to follow a clear organizational system with each shelf or section of shelves falling into a genre. However, the sheer number of books was enough to keep that system from being very effective. There were cardboard boxes stuffed with books on the floor, most likely boxes donated by members of the community. The lack of a clear organizational system forced me to scan the shelves without a clear objective in mind, which was relaxing and offered the opportunity for me to discover books I had never heard of.
The Bookery is an independent used bookstore that offers trade-ins. Members of the community can come in and trade their used books for cash or other books they find in the store. There seemed to be an “anything goes” rule, as there were boxes of piano music one shelf over from books written entirely in French, which was one shelf across from SAT prep books. These used books, no matter how perfect the condition, also could be purchased for significantly lower prices.
As I walked between the shelves, I noticed a classical radio station on in the background. The speakers projected calming cantatas and sensational symphonies while intermittently allowing the radio host to offer his own thoughts on the music. As a musician myself, I found The Bookery to be my perfect paradise, which encompassed my love of reading as well as my appreciation of classical music.
The music, while not always calming, certainly played into the mystical, magical library vibe that The Bookery created. As the music grew more turbulent, I found myself scanning the shelves faster. I was completely engaged in the atmosphere.
It was difficult not to get immediately attached to The Bookery and spend the entire day in the store, although the lack of air conditioning did eventually coax me back outside. It is one of those bookstores that forces the customer to browse aimlessly without a particular book or genre in mind. The slightly misplaced genre signs gave me the opportunity to engage with books that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered because, in a corporate bookstore, the books would have been in sections of the store I wouldn’t have been particularly interested in.
Still, I easily identified books I had read before but hadn’t thought about in years, which brought me down an entirely new train of memories. I wandered past the children’s section and found a picture book that I hadn’t considered since I was five years old, but simply seeing the cover brought me back to my childhood bedroom, reading bedtime stories with my siblings.
Upon making a full circle in the bookstore, I noticed more than a few people had wandered in and were making small talk with the owner of the store: a lovely woman who was happy to help and offer her bookish expertise. Without trying to eavesdrop, I realized that each person entering the store greeted the owner by name, and they all held a rather personal conversation, detailing stories of family and friends. There seemed to be a large number of people who came in solely to purchase a newspaper or two. However, those people already had their orders pulled aside, cueing me into the fact that they regularly attended the establishment in order to pick up books or the news. Regardless, the entire bookstore encompassed the idea of a small, tight-knit community.
The Bookery houses thousands of books, but many of them featured writers from Lexington, as well as stories and histories that focused specifically on the area. Books on the history of Virginia took up nearly an entire bookshelf, displaying just how attached to their town the people of Lexington are. There were specific flyers up that offered the opportunity to hear these local authors read and spread their stories.
The Bookery forced me into its own world as soon as I entered the shop. The stacks of old and new books on tables, shelves, and in boxes created the feeling that the shop continued on forever, so you would never run out of books to read. The music added to this magical atmosphere, sending creative minds into a whirlwind of ideas and opportunities. Still, the shop was grounded right back into reality when the local customers would wander in: men searching for their newspapers, college students looking for a leisurely read, and mothers and daughters perusing for a recipe book for that evening’s dinner. The Bookery was the perfect stop on my tour of downtown Lexington, and I found myself returning to the store multiple times, simply to be surrounded by the books and atmosphere.
For any person interested in anything that could be contained in a book, I highly recommend The Bookery as a stop on their trip. But make sure to set aside quite some time in order to at least partially take in the view!
*The Bookery is located at 107 W. Nelson St. Lexington, VA and can be found on Instagram here