BOOK WORMS: Blind Willow Book Shop in Emmaus, PA

Emmaus is a town that steals your heart once you’ve visited, and this local bookshop may take the biggest piece. Blind Willow Book Shop aims to be selective about their inventory, chosen by a knowledgeable and well-read staff. Kyle Page has a last name that made him a perfect candidate as an owner, and now along with co-owner Matt Foley, Blind Willow is a place for community, art, and of course the books.

Click below to read the INTERVIEW with Kyle Page:

Where are you from? Why did you choose Emmaus for your shop?

Matt (co-owner) and I both grew up in Coopersburg. After high school we floated around for a while: Matt to college in Maryland and then a year or so wandering Europe; Myself, a little bit of music school, and then a couple years of making music and the occasional part-time job, living in a bunch of different places in and around the Lehigh Valley. When Matt got back from Europe, the store idea materialized quickly.
I love Pennsylvania. I also love small towns, of which Emmaus is a prime example. We looked around the south side of Bethlehem too, but once we settled on Emmaus, it seemed to be a good fit (which it has been!). Plus, Emmaus has a great coffee shop just about every other door, so a book store seemed to make sense in the middle of all of them.

How was the idea for Blind Willow born? Was it difficult to make the business happen?

We had been talking about it for years, but never very seriously. Eventually Matt sort of made up his mind that it would happen, and that was that. One of the main attractions for me (other than my long-term love of used book stores) was that I’d always wanted a space of my own to organize art openings and music shows. Once we really committed, it wasn’t terribly difficult, just a lot of work. We spent a while putting together an inventory and selling books online, and at the same time were enlisting the help of a lot of wonderful friends who helped us enormously. Bought a cash register and built some book shelves. Pretty straight forward.

How do you obtain inventory? Can people bring you the books they no longer want? Is there
a certain day when new books come in?
We get our books all over the place. People bring them in and we can give cash or credit (but are very picky! sorry!). The best way is going to sales, which we travel regularly for… our favorite being in up-state New York, which happens twice a year. Occasionally I’ll special order things I think we are lacking… the last one was a big poetry order. We are constantly putting new books out. The back room is usually full, and we are perpetually molding our in-store inventory. Plus, we have a new ‘just in’ book case, but even that gets emptied regularly.

Do you specialize in anything, a genre or rare books or anything else? Do you carry a wide range of topics?
We try to carry a little of everything, but have sections that we like to keep specially stocked according to our personal interests. Matt keeps the literature and history sections in check, and I try to watch over the art, music and poetry sections to make sure they are doing well, but it really varies with flow of incoming and outgoing books.
Has anyone ever come in to look for something really unusual? Any funny customer stories (that we can print)?
Book people are a pretty funny bunch. One of my favorite customers is a 74 year old truck driver who says he was stupid for most of his life, but recently discovered books. He reads everything.. Its amazing. He’ll sort of shuffle around the room and say these subtly poetic things while looking for his laundry list of pretty dense books.
We’ve met a lot of wonderful people so far. Books are such a wonderful common ground for the intellectual/art/music/spiritual/etc. crowd, and an easy conversation starter too. I keep a Morton Feldman book on our “picks” table just because I know if someone out there is familiar with him, they’ll probably say something about it. I’ve met a couple really interesting people from that book alone.

Do you try to find books if someone is looking? Is there a way to be notified is something comes in and someone has been looking for it?
Yes, we have an online store too, so we have the capabilities to look up good deals and will gladly special order books. Also, you can look through our inventory via our website. An easy way is to just call or email and ask if we have something, but the best way is to come in and browse because it changes so much.

What is the atmosphere and experience you strive to create?
I think the main goal is to simply have a great selection of books. That combined with our ‘extra curricular activities’ is our conscious effort to be a space for thinking people. Its a small store, but we deliberately don’t have it crammed floor to ceiling with books so we can make room for some couches and chairs. We want people to hang around.
Also, I’ve been trying to keep a regular schedule of art related events… we are coming up on our second art opening which will be for a painter from Stroudsburg, Michael Shoudt, who does these amazing abstract expressionist paintings that remind me vaguely of Paul Klee and late Philip Guston put together. Our music shows are usually for quiet experimental music, and we are very selective about our poetry and short fiction readings, so that people can come to any of them and be able to expect a decent literary experience. I know the phrase ‘poetry reading’ can be scary, so I want people to be able to trust us.
(Painter Michael Shoudt’s work will be featured at Blind Willow beginning the middle of May.)

BLIND WILLOW BOOKSHOP INFO:

412 Chestnut Street
Emmaus, PA 18049
(610) 965-0500

Open: Tue-Thu,Sun 10am-7:30pm; Fri-Sat 10am-9pm

Check Blind Willow’s website to browse the frequently updated ONLINE INVENTORY: blindwillowbookshop.com

Don’t forget to become a fan on FACEBOOK to stay updated on store events!

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