Columbus Bookstore Maintains Lofty Expectations


By Caitlin Essig

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2012 08:05

“Independent bookstores are a dying breed,” said Carl Jacobsma, co-owner of The Book Loft, an independent bookstore that is celebrating its 35-year anniversary.

Jacobsma said the 32-room bookstore, located at 631 S. 3rd St., in German Village found success despite the dominance of chains and online retailers.

The store is a labyrinth of books, with corridors connecting 32 rooms in a building that spans the length of one city block. Each of the rooms feature different subject matters, including gardening books and greeting cards in Room 6, best-sellers and new releases in Room 14 and military history in Room 19.

First-time visitors to the store should “expect to be surprised, because it is unlike any other bookstore,” Jacobsma said.

Michael Hemery, author of “No Permanent Scars,” agreed. “I like the idea that it’s more than just a bookstore,” Hemery said. “Unlike the colder chain stores, it has an atmosphere and a vibe. The store has a real personality.”

The store’s unusual layout is part of its appeal and is something that persuades customers to come back, Jacobsma said.

Despite the Internet and e-books having hurt The Book Loft’s business, Jacobsma said the decline in business hasn’t been steep enough to be concerned about losing all of his business to those outlets.

“The (independent bookstores) that are established, like we are, continue to survive alongside major chains,” Jacobsma said.

Dan Conway, a 2011 OSU alumnus in accounting and finance, said although he has a Kindle, he still enjoys buying books in their traditional form.

“I use my Kindle for some books they offer for free, like classics or books where the copyright has run out,” Conway said. “I like buying books, they’re more tangible, I can put them on my bookshelf and I can show them off.”

Despite an e-book trend, Jacobsma said the simple fact that Book Loft customers have physical access to the books that might interest them, rather than just seeing pages on a screen, adds to the store’s appeal.

“I think we have a niche that people come here for,” Jacobsma said. “They don’t want to just order something off the Internet. They want to come here and handle the book and look at it. They want to read the excerpts from it.”

Hemery agreed that independent bookstores have a degree of charm, and said hearing of a local store carrying his book meant more to him than seeing his book on a shelf of a chain bookstore.
“It’s the coolest thing, to hear that local stores carry books like mine,” Hemery said. “I think the audience can appreciate it more than someone shopping at a chain store could. It’s a huge honor.”

Jacobsma said author interest in The Book Loft has increased since the September closing of Borders Group Inc.

This as well as the store being the only full-service independent bookstore left in Columbus has helped gained The Book Loft popularity, Jacobsma said.

He said the store has regular customers who visit every year on special trips, and some stay all day. He added during summers, the store services hundreds of customers per day.

One of those customers is Matt Reed, a second-year in electrical and computer engineering. He said he would recommend The Book Loft to anyone who has never been there.

“Open up an hour of your time and go in every room and see what (it has) to offer, because you never know what you might find,” Reed said.

Conway said he also likes the atmosphere of the Book Loft.
“It’s like a library at Hogwarts,” he said. “And I like the close environment of the store. Barnes & Noble is nothing like that.”