LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Pearl Street Books has been buying and selling used and new books in downtown La Crosse for over twenty years, and they are extending their hours of operation now that Covid-19 has gone. installed.
Bookseller Beth Hartung said the store has been one of La Crosse’s “gems” since it opened. Hartung said independent bookstores are really important to any community. Pearl Street Books offers a wide selection of used books, as well as a selection of new titles, as well as books written by local authors.
One of these local authors, Nicki Snyder, said that Pearl Street Books is really important to writers like her. She is part of the La Crosse Area Writers Group and has been writing since college. Her poetry group held meetings in the Pearl Street Books loft prior to quarantine. She said, “Writers are bad at marketing themselves,” adding, “Well, at least I am.” That’s why she and so many other local authors love Pearl Street Books. The store not only allows them to sell their books in person, but they can also sign books there and organize other events. You can check out her two new books “Cloud Art” and “No Hope Beyond This Point” in the local authors section of the bookstore.
Hartung said personal connections are what makes an independent bookstore unique. What she loves most about her job there are the people. She said she enjoys helping people find new books to read, especially those who say they don’t like to read. She said, “I always say it’s just that you haven’t found the right book or the right author yet if you say you don’t like reading.”
Visitors to the bookstore come from all over. Hartung said that during the summer many of their clients travel and stop while crossing La Crosse. The store is connected to the Jules Coffee Shop, and many people walk in just after having a cup of coffee. Hartung added that besides the large selection of books and the convenient location, the unique smell of old books is another factor for customers.
Books are always filled with stories, but used books often contain unique stories. Hartung, as a storyteller herself, has many fond memories of her work in the store. “A couple came last summer, they had planned to go to Russia, but with the covid they couldn’t,” Hartung said, “so they came to La Crosse.” They visited the bookstore and bought an entire box full of books from the Russian section. “That’s how they got to Russia,” Hartung said, “they came to our bookstore.”
Hartung also described a time when a young couple picked up hardcover books by acclaimed Midwestern author Willa Cather. They were going to name their daughter Willa, and they wanted to fill her crib with as many Cather books as possible. Hartung didn’t have all the books they were looking for, but she did promise to let them know if there were any. The next day a customer arrived with a box set complete with every book Cather wrote. “It was a beautiful set, it had Willa Cather’s name on it in big letters on the side, it was beautiful.” Hartung said.
The store buys used books in good condition from those willing to sell them and offers store credit or cash if you prefer. Hartung says buying and selling used books is not only a good way to pass on good books, but it’s also good for the environment. She also wanted to thank the bookstore patrons for continuing to come during the covid, saying “we wouldn’t be happy without you.”
Hartung added that she usually says her favorite book is the one she is reading right now, if she likes it. However, if she had to choose just one, she said her favorite was “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham.