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Unique bookstore offers range of attractions

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-06-28


The sign out from may read Mitchell Books, but there’s a whole lot more on offer inside than shelves full of literature.

Not that Fort Wayne couldn’t use a little more of that, either, but in addition to the 50,000 + titles on offer (with possibly more to come), Mitchell Books will provide a great selection of CDs, DVDs, a movie theater/screening room, a travel agency affiliate, Spoon’s Bistro, and possibly the most eye-popping children’s section you’ve ever seen.

In fact, the model for Mitchell Books isn’t really a book/CD store in the traditional sense of the term at all. The phrase owner Peter Bobeck uses is “lifestyle center,” which he explains is a new retail format that has seen success in a few other independent stores across the country. The idea behind it is to consolidate a wide range of things under one roof that a customer wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Thus, the extensive travel section will be affiliated with a local traveling agency, the DVD section will offer specialized, hard-to-find titles, etc. Visitors to the store “The tagline that we’ve come up with for the store is ‘Brilliant Diversions,’” says Bobeck. “It’s a store devoted to learning, and people who want to learn, but in a recreational way.”

Bobeck says he’s most proud of the children’s section, and indeed, the children’s section is stunning. Model trees overhang a large play castle, while an enormous globe dominates the center of the room. The section also comes with its own state-of-the-art sound system. “There’s a lot of things kids can do besides look at the offerings,” Bobeck says. “I think it’ll be the most interactive children’s section out there. There’s true character here, unlike a regular toy or bookstore. People can come here and have hours of fun with their family.”

Part of the concept behind Mitchell Books and the lifestyle-type store in general is that by creating an interactive environment for the customer, it avoids competition with elements in retail that have made life difficult of late for large-scale independent book/CD retailers — namely, big chain stores and the internet. And, of course, the tried-and-true virtues of customer service can’t be over-rated, even in the days of “click-and-buy” shopping. “I think that by having a staff that’s really knowledgeable about, say, music, we’ll be able to interact with our customers in the way a bigger store can’t,” says Bobeck.

Mitchell Books unique take on a traditional bookstore extends to Spoon’s Cafe, a 60 – 80 seat café area that will almost be a separate entity for the store itself, with a full menu (rather than just coffee and muffins, though it will have those, too) including gelato. And, following the goal of Mitchell’s Books being a place where people can come to learn, there will also be a demonstration kitchen for cooking classes.

The 65-seat screening room will have a separate entrance from the bookstore, and Bobeck hopes to show independent films and host special screenings of older or overlooked classics. Organizations can also reserve the screening room for seminars or lectures.

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