Mon
Nov 22 2010 2:33pm

An Independent Bookstore Just Off the Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path bookstore

Everyone knows the independent bookstore. It’s probably where many of us got our first real taste of the genre. For people interested in science fiction, fantasy, comic books and art, it represents a place of uniqueness in a world of homogeneity. It’s what bookstores used to be, before they were all gobbled up by chains: a community institution where fans of alternative fiction can catch up on the newest titles, socialize and share their love of whatever genre holds their interest. It’s the sort of place that fosters creativity and can serve as a cornerstone to a local artistic community.

We all know the independent bookstore, but we seldom have the privilege to see it as it develops, beginning first as a business venture by some brave entrepreneur, and then growing into something truly inspiring. But at this very moment, just such a thing is happening right before our very eyes. In the state of Michigan, the Off the Beaten Path Bookstore and Café has just been opened by the charming and dedicated Salathiel Palland. In addition to being a bookstore, Off the Beaten Path is a hangout, art gallery and social space. Its shelf space is dedicated to sci-fi, fantasy, horror, romance, comics and graphic novels, steampunk, and a host of other wonderful alternative genres.

Right now Michigan is in the grips of a severe economic depression, and in this environment it is easy for people to become frustrated and fall into despair, making the situation all the worse. A creative space like Off the Beaten Path offers a chance to help revitalize its area by offering the artistic and literary community a place to come together and share ideas. And to help foster this creative spirit, the bookstore is to be decorated in a steampunk theme to further emphasize its blending of literature and art.

Although technically open at the moment, Off the Beaten Path’s official grand opening will be taking place on November 27th. I for one wish Salathiel the best of luck in helping to bring hope and inspiration to her part of Michigan.

If you’re as intrigued by this bookstore as I am, check out their website (linked above) and their Facebook page, and if you’re in the area be sure to swing by and give Off the Beaten Path a look. I did, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


G. D. Falksen is lover of bookstores, and Off the Beaten Path is no exception. His musings on this and other subjects can be found on his Facebook and Twitter.

6 comments
Alex Brown
1. AlexBrown
I love local bookstores like this. Reminds me a lot of Borderlands Books in SF...not the cafe/art gallery part, but the atmosphere. I've gone in there with a list of 4 books and walked out 2 hours later with 20 additional books and comics I'd never heard of before after hanging out with one of the staff and talking SFF. You never get that sort of personality at large chains. Borders can suck it.
Lenny Bailes
2. lennyb
Here's the important thing, to me, about independent bookstores specializing in F&SF: the existence of those places defines lifestyle choices and possibilities that may not exist without those bookstores.

Like the versions of science fiction fandom those stores somtimes nourish and support, they make real the concept of "escape holes" from commerce-driven, "must take care of business" aspects of daily life. For people drawn to places where they can meet up, socialize, and discuss their reading experience, niche bookstores restore a dimension to American life that was present in the 19th and 2oth Centuries and which has all but disappeared in the last fifty years.

I've been lucky enough, for the last 30 years to live in cities where science fiction specialty stores have been permitted to exist. When I was in my late twenties, unemployed and a bit confused about what I should do to correct the situation, I lived in a hotel that was two blocks from a "hole-in-the-wall" joint called "Fantasy, Etc." Although I didn't know many people in San Francisco "fandom" back then, I quickly discovered kindred spirits working behind the counter in the bookstore. Like me, the clerks possessed a strong, encyclopedia-like knowledge of the literature of science fiction, and loved conducting discussions about their favorite and non-favorite authors.

Across the bay, in Berkeley, "The Other Change of Hobbit" was another nurturing environment where the order of the day was to select and play large assortments of folk music, while shepherding customers to book choices they might enjoy. Like the contemporary "Borderlands" in San Francisco, "The Other Change of Hobbit" hosted many author readings and science fiction fan club meetings. (They're still out there, trying to make a go of it.)

In the contemporary U.S., the ability of publishers, writers and artists to make a working living from science fiction *is* largely dependent upon sales to large chain stores and upon Internet distribution mechanisms. Before we hiss too loudly at them, we may have to consider the simple economic fact that without these larger-scale commercial distribution vehicles, we might not have the privilege of buying science fiction, and supporting the s-f writing community at all.

Without wishing to discount the economic realities of the world we now find ourselves living in, I'm happy to see posts here that praise and celebrate the phenomenon of the independent s-f bookstore. These places have been shelters and nurturing points in my life. I can't help feeling that something would be seriously wrong with any world (and book distribution system) that won't permit them to exist.
Madeline Ferwerda
3. MadelineF
Because I'd like to see this succeed, I'll mention location a bit closer than "Michigan". Looks like (after wresting with Google Maps, what the heck is up with their recent changes?!) it's on the outskirts of Detroit to the west?
kid_greg
5. kid_greg
I wish a an independant bookstore just like this would open in my locale.. I wish I could be the one to open it, but I don't think it would make it here. :(
kid_greg
6. macaodghain
The bookstore is located in Farmington, MI, on Orchard Lake Rd. between 9 and 10 mile roads.
kid_greg
7. Shane Tiernan
Hurry up and by all her books or she'll be forced to read them all herself (if she hasn't already)!

I would have killed to have someplace like this to hang out at as a teen. Now of course I have moved away so I only get to visit a couple times a year.

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