PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Wayland Square neighborhood on this city’s East Side is a great place to be a book hunter. The area has two terrific book shops, the independent bookstore Books on the Square and the rare and used shop Myopic Books.
I visited both while I was home in Rhode Island for the holidays. This post focuses on Books on the Square, and another post on Myopic Books will follow in the next few days,
I got the dime tour over the holidays from Chris Byrnes, a bookseller and leader of three of the shop’s weekly story times. Video follows:
This past summer, two Borders locations in the area closed. In July, Books on the Square manager Jennifer Doucette (no relation) told Publishers Weekly that Borders had not had much effect on business:
Our store is really blessed. We’re in a great neighborhood with lots of families walking around. We’re up, just a little bit, and we just renewed our lease for another five years.
Since the Borders closed, business has been strong. Aside from the book store at Brown University, Byrnes noted:
When it comes to Providence, we’re kind of it for new books.
The shop is designed for community involvement, and it hosts story times for kids, a variety of reading groups, a discussion of ideas called the Socrates Cafe, and even community meetings. Byrnes said Doucette put the central book racks on wheels, so they can be moved aside for large events. And the shop has a large children’s section, a point of pride. Byrnes said:
We want to create a place where people can relax and not be part of the rat race. They can come and pick up a book or a magazine.
Brooke Huminski, a graduate student studying social work, is a regular. She said:
I love this bookstore. There’s a personal feel to it and a lot of community events.You can find things in it from best sellers to idiosyncratic books.
Customer Bill Dilworth added:
I like supporting local businesses, and this has books you might not see at chain stores.
I asked Dilworth about being in neighborhood with two great bookstores. He replied:
It’s impoverishing. If I go into either of these places just to look, I almost invariably get something I didn’t intend to purchase.
Books on the Square is at 471 Angell St. on Providence’s East Side. Find out more about the shop via its website at this link. A post on Myopic Books is forthcoming.