Store: Boxcar & Caboose Bookshop & Cafe
Location: St. Johnsbury, VT
Booksellers: Melanie & Joseph
Recommendation: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
While I’ve been through St. Johnsbury on a number of occasions, mostly traveling by on my way to visit family in the “Northeast Kingdom,” I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in the town for any length of time.
And I’ve certainly never taken the time to explore downtown St. J.
We got into town on a sunny Saturday morning. The weekly farmer’s market was bustling and a nice gentleman told me that I didn’t need to feed the meter on Saturdays.
When I said that I had just donated a quarter to the town then, he thanked me for lower his taxes. That’s when I realized that this was a cool town.
My good impressions continued as I entered Boxcar and Caboose, fittingly located on Railroad Street.
The store is spacious and welcoming.
The children’s section and a play area are located toward the front of the store, which is different from most of the other shops I’ve visited where the kid’s books are tucked in a room or nook at the back.
While checking out an American Girl display (I wish they had American Girls when I was young. I know would have been really into them), a little girl and her mother were shopping.
The mom seemed to want buy the girl what looked like kids gardening tools in a bright green bag. “It has your very own spray bottle!” she cajoled.
The kid was too busy looking at books to be interested in spraying things. A girl after my own heart!
One of the things I found so aesthetically pleasing about Boxcar and Caboose was that, with very few exceptions, there was only one copy of each book on the shelves. It made the displays very clean and appealing.
I asked Melanie, the bookseller, if there were more copies out back and she said no. They can get most titles in 24 hours, so they just re-order a book when it sells.
Maybe this is common practice in small bookshops and I just hadn’t noticed it before, but I liked it a lot. The store felt more like a private, well-curated library than a shop.
Another highlight was the “customer recommendations” bookcase.
Melanie said that the store has very loyal customers and someone is always coming in and telling them they should have this or that book in the customer display.
Even as someone not part of that particular club, it made me feel like the store and its staff have a relationship with their customers and listen to them — that great conversations take place in the aisles, with recommendations flying back and forth.
Melanie and Joseph, the barista on duty, were both super friendly. Melanie is in school fulltime and admitted to have little time for fiction reading, but had several books to propose based on suggestions by other staff members.
When Joseph joined the conversation he highly recommended the book he had just finished, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
I had already settled on a book Melanie had handed me though, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.
I’ve enjoyed many Atwood books, but had never heard of the MaddAddam trilogy so I couldn’t resist.
As I was checking out, Melanie said that she misses reading fiction. Before returning to school, she had always traveled with two books in case she finished one. “As my daughter says, I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t have a back up book.”
Those sound like words to live by to me.
I have to admit that I fell a little bit in love with Boxcar and Caboose, from the quirky name and wonderful coffee smell to the helpful staff and welcoming displays.
If I lived closer I would probably spend long, happy hours there.
As it is, I’ll just have to be sure to treat myself to a drive to St. Johnsbury and an afternoon in a great bookstore.