7900 High School Rd, Elkins Park, PA

I just returned from a lovely few days in the Hudson River Valley, where I went with my 14-year-old son Oren for a short getaway. We enjoyed beautiful scenery, hiking, and great food. And of course, as we always do when we travel, we visited some local bookstores.

The waterfall at Diamond Mills

One afternoon found us in the town of Saugerties, where we kayaked up and down the Esopus Creek (a shout out to Gail at I Paddle New York for great service and advice) for a few hours. In my experience, creeks are narrow scrawny things, but this creek is broad, smooth, long and lovely. Afterward, we had a happy hour snack at The Tavern at Diamond Mills overlooking a mini Niagara Falls, but we cut short the scenery and the relaxing at 5:30 to rush over to the local bookstore, Inquiring Minds, because a quick check of their website indicated they closed at 6pm. However, when we arrived there at 5:35, we were told they were about to close, and the barista refused to make me a coffee, saying all the machines had been turned off. When I mentioned that their website said they were open until 6 on Sundays, she told me with an uninterested shrug that there were mistakes on the website.

Otherwise, the store seemed fine, but I noticed something interesting, which was that many of the display books were shrink-wrapped, making it impossible to look inside them. When I asked the guy at the front desk about this, he said they did it to protect the books from damage, especially if they only had one copy, and that if I wanted to look at it they would gladly open it for me and then re-shrink-wrap it afterwards. I certainly understand wanting to keep the merchandise in good condition, but rather than going to the trouble of asking for it to be opened each time I wanted to peruse a book, I just moved on. Given how many shrink-wrapped books I found, I wonder if they have a problem with customers not being careful with the merchandise.

The next bookstore stop was Spotty Dog Books & Ale on Warren Street in Hudson, NY, where we got a chance to chat with owner Kelley Drahushuk. Kelley is native to the area, and although she has lived many other places, including Philadelphia, she eventually made her way back home. She was running an art supply store in a shop on Warren Street when her current, much larger, space became available via her uncle. She says she comes from a family of brewers, so this space came equipped with a bar. When determining what to add to her merchandise mix in this larger space, she took heed of the community’s desire for a bookstore in the town, and that’s the direction she went. So, while she didn’t get her start in the book business (she says she trained as an industrial engineer), after thirteen successful years running Spotty Dog, she’s a pro now! The store has a warm and welcoming atmosphere and a great mix of books (Oren and I found a new favorite: a children’s board book called Feminist Baby), but Oren was daunted by the bar in front, which, at 11:45 in the morning when we visited, already had patrons.

While we were out bookstore hopping in New York, back in Elkins Park, Evan received a visit at our bookstore from Chelsea and Colin Green, two publishing industry professionals who are on their own bookstore tour as they make their way to Texas, where they will be opening Bibliobar along with Chelsea’s sister Jessica Tresp. We wish them the best of luck and hope to visit them in North Dallas someday!

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