by Andy Mitchell
In the fall, not only leaves land from out of the blue, but also people do, too. Autumn is the time for homecomings. And with two high schools, two four-year colleges, a school for the deaf and a school for the visually impaired, Jacksonville is abuzz with football games, parades and dances. And also class reunions, which bring former students, many of who grew up here, as well, back to our fair little town on the prairie.
All of this is good news for the bookstore, good news for me. While I wouldn’t trade any of my regulars – those occupiers of “The Chair,” – for all of the out-of-towners combined, I do enjoy when visitors do what visitors do – visit. They visit the town, the colleges, the square – and the bookstore. And while some spend money, which is fine with me – I have to pay the rent – most of them seem to appreciate there being a bookstore in their hometown, or the town of their alma mater. “It’s so good to see a bookstore in town,” they say. And they can’t get over how much better the downtown looks. They remember coming back to a ghost downtown for all those years following the “improvements” made in wayward decades past.
They tell me they never knew a beautiful marble column stood proudly for years behind some slapped-together facade in front of the building next door. Now, thanks to my friends, the Meeks, who own the building, the column marks the threshold of my friend, Nicole’s, super cool shop (The Soap Co. Coffee House).
Yes, things are looking up for our downtown, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m surrounded by great neighbors in either direction: Soap Co., the Playhouse and beyond in one direction; the Quilted Cow, Just Good Trade and beyond in the other direction.
The newest shop on the block is Taylor Mercantile, which recently opened its doors just off the square. Purveyors of dry goods, teas and spices, Troy Taylor and Lisa Taylor-Horton offer a much-needed specialty shop downtown, providing another antidote to the demoralizing one-stop zombie shopping at featureless, gray warehouse-style big box clones. If you want Lipton (or cheap fabric), you can find it on the edge of town. You can find it anywhere. But if you want something unique (be it an exotic spice, high-quality fabric or a scarf made fairly and squarely in Bolivia, and not in a Chinese sweatshop feeding the fat pockets of America’s top 1 percent), well … then you can find it, along with many other unique wares, right here in downtown Jacksonville.
Oh, and speaking of Bolivian scarves, I just can’t wait to wear the one I got last year at my friend, Rhonda’s, corner shop, Just Good Trade. We here at OTB just love JGT. It’s all about good neighbors. It’s all about mom and pop corner shops. Let’s keep bringin’ ‘em back. Shop local this fall when you need a new quilt from next door, and a hot cup of Joe at the other next door … while you’re curled up reading a book. Did I mention there’s a bookstore downtown? (Insert winking emoji here.)
And more importantly, shop local come Christmastime, when I’ll be showing off my Bolivian scarf.