128 Jay Street, Schenectady, NY
I’ll say this about The Open Door Bookstore—it sets the bar very high. From the first moment I walked inside, I realized that this is the kind of bookshop I’d call a “standard bearer,” especially for independent bookshops that specialize in new books. You walk in see all those displays of bestsellers, hardcovers, pristine paperbacks, and you smell that smell, of ink, paper, and binding, walk the clean orderly aisles. This is where you can spend an afternoon and lose yourself looking for that lucky book or two (or six?) that you plan to take home.
I visited on a blistering cold February Saturday and to my relief I found the shop warm and inviting, with books of every variety and genre. The front of the shop features the bestsellers, local interest, and large coffee table and art books, but as you explore further you’ll find a small but diverse selection of poetry, rows and rows of nonfiction covering all that major fields, including a robust philosophical selection, and all manner of mainstream fiction, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, children’s YA, and more. The real kicker, and the thing that will set a good bookshop apart from any other, was that the entire right wall of the store was one big half-off section for discounted new books, excellent condition, and covering as broad a selection of topics and genres as you could hope for.
I found at least a dozen I wanted to buy from these shelves alone, and after some debating, I settled on Nick Offerman’s Gumption and an intriguing New York Times nonfiction bestseller The Kick-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, about librarians scrounging through war zones and dangerous locales to find and save age-old documents and rare books. Each was in mint condition, $8 apiece, no shipping. Eat your heart out, Amazon. Sure you could find them for a couple bucks cheaper online somewhere, but you lose so much by skipping the adventure of finding the book waiting for you—just you—on a shelf in a shop just like this.
While paying at the register, I noticed the shop also sponsored a children’s writing competition. A bookstore sponsoring a writing competition! For kids! That’s a thing of beauty, like the cherry on top of a sundae I was already in love with. And considering the quaint downtown location on a cobble stoned street blocked off for foot traffic, this is a shop you simply cannot overlook.
Atmosphere — Warm, inviting, well-lit, organized, and it has that bookshop smell!
Quality — All the books were new and in fine condition.
Quantity — Plenty to choose from, and a surprising amount of books for each section for such a small shop.
Diversity — Excellent selection and a wide variety of topics and genres.
Affordability — The prices for many new books were what you’d expect, but the massive wall of discounted books was very friendly on the wallet. That really made the shop an excellent find.
Amenities — There was a small play section for small children, and a variety of other gifts available, but I didn’t see many places to sit and read.
Location — Downtown Schenectady on a quaint cobbled street. Plenty of parking nearby too.
Customer Service — The staff were polite and busy at the front desk, and didn’t bother me as I wandered the stacks, which is just what I’d like.
Overall — This shop is what you’d hope to find in an indie bookstore. It’s bright, warm, welcoming, and offers an array of new and discounted books that makes for an experience any book lover would enjoy and find difficult to leave without at least one new book.