Welcome to Bookspot of the Week, where we here at Bookstr feature an incredible place where books live that book lovers must check out. Today, our featured bookspot is Blue Plate Books is a charming used bookstore located at the top of the Shenandoah Valley, a scenic hour-and-a-half drive from Washington DC. We spoke with the owner and founder of Blue Plate Books, Pat Saine, about feeding book lovers need to read.
How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?
I opened Blue Plate Books in September 2008, just at the beginning of the Great Recession, and right after my long career in healthcare. While I had no training in business, one of my dreams was to own a used bookstore. So, I gathered up a few thousand books and rented a small storefront. Fast forward a dozen years, and Blue Plate Books has grown to more than 50,000 titles.
What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?
Our tagline is “Feeding Your Need to Read.” We don’t carry every book published. If you’re looking for something very specific, we might not have it. On the other hand, if you walk in with an open mind, looking for something good to read, then we’ve got you covered. The book you walk out with might be a recent release or a classic. It could be true – or fiction. You may have never heard of it. But if it’s on our shelves, that book in your hands has already been loved by someone else. And it’s ready to be loved by you.
If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?
A roller coaster.
Why? Shopping in a brick-and-mortar bookstore is flat-out more exciting than shopping online. Comparing the two is like comparing a roller coaster ride to a glitchy virtual reality experience. A roller coaster ride gives you that same thrill you get when you find a good read.
How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?
Since our books come from our customers, we mirror the diversity of our community. Our stock includes both antiquarian treasures and the latest bestsellers. The oldest book in the store is from 1590. The newest was published just last month.
Whether customers are looking for books on history or hiking, Blue Plate is a great resource for local information. We’re also a sales outlet for local authors and artists. Customers have used our space for book clubs, author signings, and even a wedding!
What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?
A glimpse into the past and a peek at the future. Book chains and online retailers constantly churn books, moving them in and out. As a used bookstore, we know it’s OK to let books sit for a while. Our titles are well-trained to wait patiently for just the right reader.
Our staff is experts in customer service. We’re there for people whether they need help locating a book, discovering a new author, or selecting a gift. We’ll hunt for a vintage hardcover, search for a fine leather binding, or find that paperback reading copy.
Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?
Blue Plate Books has a great crew. Full of people who care deeply about books, we’re carefully balanced by subject. For example, Greg is a former Navy Pilot who really understands history. Trevor, a High School English teacher, has a way of sharing classics. As students at the local community college, Jen and Leigh-Ann know what young people are reading today. Josh explores philosophy. Trenton devours science fiction. Sarah loves animals. Just like the variety on our shelves, our staff reflects diversity in thought.
How else do you create a welcoming environment?
Walking into Blue Plate Books is like walking into a warm hug. We’re clean, well lit, and chock-full of books. Gentle music plays in the background. With plenty of books and lots of shelves, it’s easy to get lost. Seating is sprinkled throughout, so customers can try on our books.
What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?
Blue Plate is a happy place for people who love books! Our curated selection is well organized. New stock lands on our shelves daily. Parking is close and free. We’re open every day from 10 am to 8 pm. And, while we hope the pandemic resolves soon, we follow all state and CDC guidelines for COVID to ensure the safety of our customers and staff.
Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?
A Great Recent Read:
Greg: Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
Jen: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Josh: Dune by Frank Herbert
Leigh-Anne: Confess by Colleen Hoover
Pat: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Sarah: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Trenton: Horus Rising by Dan Abnett
Trevor: White Apples by Jonathan Carroll
A Favorite to Recommend:
Greg: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Jen: Little Women Louisa May Alcott
Josh: Early Buddhist Discourses edited by John Holder
Leigh-Anne: Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
Pat: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe
Sarah: Jurassic Park by Michael Critchon
Trenton: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Trevor: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?
We know you haven’t stopped by in a while. We get it. But visiting a used bookstore is safer than shopping at a grocery store because we have fewer customers. So, do your local brick-and-mortar bookstore a favor. Pull up your calendar app, click on this weekend, and add this to your Saturday: Stop by the Bookstore. You’ll be a happier person after your visit.
Featured Image via Blue Plate Books