Destination Bookstore: Idlewild Books, New York, NY
Browser's Briefing: Idlewild Books features world literature and travel guides, organized by country. Owner David Del Vecchio noted that the store sells more literature than guidebooks, with most of the customers shopping the store for their next great read rather than looking to plan a trip.
First Impressions: You'll immediately be taken in by Idlewild Books' storefront, on the south side of 19th Street, on New York City's West Side. The wall of windows creates a moving, human billboard and immediately showcases all the books and the store's beautiful interior -- which, clearly, helps draw shoppers into the second-floor retail space.
Sight Lines: Idlewild's interior space is gorgeous, with beautiful wooden floors, very nice fixtures, and a number of intriguing staff picks titles on tables as you enter. (Owner Del Vecchio noted to a recent visitor that his landlord didn't know the original, wooden floors were there. That, and much else, came to light when Del Vecchio renovated the space.) The store's warm, inviting atmosphere is pronounced at the front of the store, and such architectural details as the high ceilings and original moldings help establish a wonderful feeling of distinction and clarity that help showcase the featured titles tables, just beyond the cash wrap.
Inside Story: Del Vecchio reported that business is good, but there are challenges, too. There are empty storefronts on 19th Street, the economy is still seeking a surer footing, and, then, there is the question of printed guidebooks in a world of rapidly expanding digital content. Notably, Idlewild's identity is more than guidebooks. Along with them, the store features literature and books about politics and culture, all arranged by country. (For armchair travelers, a dream bookstore destination...) And Del Vecchio noted that his long-term strategic thinking very much takes into account that in five years most guidebook readers may be flicking screen views on their smart phones, digital readers, and iPads rather than turning pages. With that in mind, Idlewild now features children's books in the front of the store, and has begun offering foreign language classes. Del Vecchio said that he will be using the space at the rear of the store for an expanded selection of foreign-language titles, all with an eye to building traffic and making Idlewild even more of a destination.
Noted With Pleasure: A staff picks table features a selection of related titles that are packaged with a special, branded band. The caption on the band reads, "Sayonara, Susie, Best of luck in Tokyo -- we'll miss you!" Del Vecchio explained that colleagues of a woman who had been transferred from their company's New York office to Tokyo had purchased five books for her (travel titles and literature), and how the bundling served as both clever gift-wrapping and very effective branding for Idlewild. (There's a shot of the spines of the titles here, too.) The store creates the bands on a color printer, and they are a very easy sell. Del Vecchio said the next step would be to more effectively market the service, which up to now has been more word of mouth and sold on an individual basis.
Inflight Reading: On the way out, we picked up a copy of The Devil in the White City, perfect for an imminent trip to Chicago.... --Dan Cullen