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Miss Betty's Hydrangea
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Move to Chattanooga

Two Excellent Used Bookstores a stone's throw from Missionary Ridge

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(cross posted from my personal journal)

I love books and I love buying books. And like any real book lover, I regularly patronize used bookstores.  And one bookstore is never enough to feed the addiction. I used to depend on McKay's Books pretty heavily but when they moved further out of town, I decided to go local.

Over the years, I have had a love/hate relationship with McKay's books. When I moved to Chattanooga from Knoxville in 1995, I was delighted that they also had a McKay's here. They were my #1 bookstore, and as they grew, they were able to provide a greater selection of used books at affordable prices.

But somewhere along their way they lost their soul, their seating, and their cool laid back attitude. Going to McKay's felt more and more like going to Wal-Mart. They ditched their seating they narrowed the aisles, they blare at you for thirty minutes to leave the store prior to closing, and what they give you in trade credit is not worth the gas to drive there. Other people must have felt the same way, as I was finding fewer and fewer books in my areas of interest appearing on the shelves. When they moved 3.5 miles further out of town, I was annoyed, but I kept going (while grumbling under my breath) If only there was something nearby (and with more charm). Then one day I overhead a cashier bitching about the annoying customers who would not leave to the last possible minute. (and this was at the worst of the recession)

I'd had it. They no longer deserved the #1 spot in my rankings. So I vowed to visit McKay's Books no more than once a month.

I turned my loyalty instead to

The Book Co.
3205 Old Ringgold Road
Chattanooga, TN 37412-1244
Phone: (423) 622-1805

They are an old old favorite of mine located on the East Ridge side of Missionary Ridge just of the Ringgold Road tunnel by Log Cabin Antiques.

I've known and patronized the owners for years, they used to have 2 different locations (over the river off Fraizer Ave), and one at the old flea market that used to be off of S. Kelly Street behind Hunan Wok. I remembered countless times standing in the winter cold at their flea market location, thumbing through stacks of books, looking for the latest deal.

They eventually closed both locations in favor of their current address in East Ridge. Their new location was a little more out of sight, out of mind for me, but still nearby. They have many chairs and stools scattered about, and a table or two, They have  charming clean bathrooms, and regularly get fresh batches of books that are very affordable. Every month they have a different special, one month it might be buy one cookbook get one free, another month it might be art books 50% off. And they have a cat. Yes, the book company definitely has a soul.


Then a month or two ago, I was driving down Brainerd Road and noticed what looked to be bookcases in an old building on the Brainerd side of the Missionary Ridge Tunnel... Sure enough, it is a new bookstore and they just opened:

Olde Towne Books
3213 Brainerd Road
Chattanooga, TN 37411
(423) 475-7187

I went down there this past weekend and spoke with owner Jeff Whitley. He has used his skills as a builder to renovate the building. Inside you have exposed stained beams, exposed brickwork, hand built bookcases, and a lot of oil-rubbed bronze fixtures and lots of comfortable seating that give the store a very warm and welcoming (yet pristine) atmosphere. He owns the building and has plans to put in a coffee shop in the adjoining suite. Well-appointed is the term that comes to mind.

Their books are reasonably priced, and they also are developing a portion of their stock do some antique and collectible books (which for me fills a void that was left  behind when the Incurable Collector bookstore in Knoxville closed down in the mid 90's.) Saturday I walked away with an armload of Foreign Language and cookbooks. 

These two bookstores have managed to fill the void that McKays left behind. I feel very lucky to have The Book Co and Old Towne Books, within a mile and a half of my home, although I'm not surprised. I've noticed a lot of people I've met that live on or around Missionary ridge love books and learning.

Now if only someone would open up a diner or cafe within walking distance of Barking Legs Theater, my world would be complete.
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