Book Train, Book Train Goin’ So Fast…

I purchased the last book I will ever buy at Book Train in Glenwood Springs today. Since they were having a “Lost Our Lease” sale, I also purchased a lot of magazines that will be hard to find elsewhere in the Roaring Fork Valley.  Another bookstore bites the dust in Glenwood.

We lost Through the Looking Glass in 2011, after 33 years, which made Book Train and Book Grove the only two left in town. Book Train has been serving customers for 42 years. Now, it’s gone…or will be by the end of this month.

I have fond memories of Book Train, such as the chocolate kisses I won for guessing the source of the daily quote, written on the chalkboard in the window.  The elegant green awning. The cats. The wonderful window decorations, reflecting the seasons or Banned Book Week or International Women’s Day or Martin Luther King Jr Day or Harry Potter. My friend, Stacy Linman, used to do the window dressing for the store. If she were alive today, she’d be really peeved that the store is closing.

I actually won a contest at Book Train several years ago. I can’t remember what the contest was about but I remember getting the phone call that I’d won something, which ended up being a hardbound, coffee-table book about travel. I was so excited and remember that the women who worked there were excited, too. They were always excited to talk to customers and share music tastes and favorite authors, happy to recommend books; willing to make those special orders. I was told that the book I purchased today was probably the final special order they will ever do.

You could buy newspapers there – not only local papers but the New York Times and the Denver Post. Great greeting cards. Great kitsch, like Harry Potter gummy creatures (!) or those wind-up dentures that hop. And, the magazines! From People to those esoteric European photography magazines that are more like books. Adbusters, the International Socialist Review, the Sun, as well as countless fashion and gardening rags. Anything you wanted in the magazine world, Book Train usually sold it. It was a real-live newsstand, just like in the old days.  We can still go to the library for magazines but the only place to buy them is City Market. No more newsstands.

I hear an ice cream and sweet shop will fill that space. How many ice cream and sweet shops does Glenwood have now?  Way more than there are book stores. I realize it was a perfect storm of circumstances that forced Book Train to close – no one person is to blame – but an ice cream store replacing an institution that has been in operation for 5 decades?

I was tempted to count restaurants, ice cream/sweet shops, tattoo parlors, dispensaries, and empty storefronts today while I was in town but held back. Too depressing now that there will be no more book store on Grand Avenue. I don’t understand what makes Glenwood Springs the Most Fun Town in America. Seriously, and my apologies to the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association, but what’s fun about a town without a homegrown bookstore?

I like towns with bookstores, and I don’t mean Barnes & Noble. I mean small towns with unique places to peruse books, used and new. Moab has Back of Beyond. Aspen has Explore. Basalt has Bookbinders. Denver, Tattered Cover. Lisbon has the Bertrand, the world’s oldest bookstore, open since 1755. Then, there’s the Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, with the world’s longest line.

Glenwood Springs once had four – two that sold new and two that sold used. Now, the city has one that sells used. Sheri Scruby does a great job with her comfy, neighborhood Book Grove and perhaps she’ll add a section of new books so former Book Train customers or tourists who want more than thrill rides, beer tastings, marijuana, and ice cream for vacation options won’t feel starved.

I, for one – and I know I’m not alone – will miss Book Train and the culture and intellect it added to a faded Glenwood Springs downtown. And, I’ve already started ordering books from Sheri. I feel like I need to support the town’s bookshop hold-out lest we end up with a bricks-and-mortar Amazon Books in the Glenwood Springs Mall. Or even worse: no bookstore at all.

Thanks for listening…


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