Boarding House Books: A Page of Main Street History

It was mentioned on Facebook recently that Claremore really needs a bookstore.

We have one.

It’s called Boarding House Books, and it’s located in historic downtown Claremore, next door to Bike-About. It’s been open since 2009. I’ll be honest, I had never been inside the bookstore. I imagined an old, musty space full of ancient textbooks that had been traded in.

I could not have been more wrong.

The first floor of Boarding House Books is a good-sized space, akin to the size of its next-door neighbor, Bike-About. There is a variety of genres located on the first floor, a mixture of everything. Everything is clean and well-organized, and the owners, Janice and Tracy Whittaker, do a great job of making cute and interesting displays with the merchandise, often incorporating props. Upstairs is where the fun really begins.

The store’s name comes from the building’s origins as the old Ward Boarding House. Newcomers would arrive in town on the train, and Ward was the first place to get a room. It operated as such until 1985, when a fire caused by a careless cigarette caused extensive damage to one of the bedrooms.

Each of the original bedrooms now houses books, neatly grouped by category. Romance, horror, mystery, science-fiction…all of them are covered. I spotted a large selection of novels by my favorite author, Jonathan Kellerman, as well as plenty of my embarrassing guilty pleasure reads by Danielle Steel. (This is proof that the inventory runs the gamut!) The individual rooms give shoppers the sense that he or she is alone, the only one in a cozy world of books. It’s not like a big-box bookstore, where you are constantly jostling other customers and waiting for your turn at the shelves. Boarding House Books is a reader’s paradise: quiet, serene and intimate. The historical building adds to the air of intrigue upstairs.

The centerpiece of the upstairs area is a living area with couches and armchairs. This is where regular book club meetings are held. If you would like to rent the space for an event, it is available for $25 per hour. If you would like to join a book club, just ask!

While the building has undergone extensive renovations, every precaution has been taken to maintain the historical value of the building. In fact, out of 40 submissions from Oklahoma Main Street communities, Boarding House Books recently placed in the top three finalists for the 2014 Best Interior Design Project! One of the rooms upstairs is still set up as a bedroom, and it is used each year for Dickens on the Boulevard’s “Tales from the Top.”

The selection at Boarding House Books is extensive, as I mentioned. Browsing is encouraged, but if you’re looking for something particular, don’t be afraid to ask, as all of the books are filed on a computer for easy locating. One of the great aspects of the store is that there is a large supply of children’s books, which is rare for an independent bookstore. There is an entire room upstairs just for kids’ books!

The inventory is a blend of new and pre-owned books, both hardback and paperback. With the pre-owned, there is also a trade program in place, which helps if you’re a bookworm! You can bring in your books and swap them for new ones with the credit. Ask the staff for more information.

Boarding House Books is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 10a – 5p, Thursday from 10a – 6p, and Saturday from 10a – 4p. Closed on Sundays. The store is located at 300 W. Will Rogers. You can keep up with them on Facebook, too!

If you’re on the hunt for the latest bestseller or an old classic, make Boarding House Books your first stop. Or if you’ve got an hour (or more) to kill, take a trip to downtown Claremore and immerse yourself in the wonder that is our very own bookstore.

Keep it local, Claremore.

-MCM Staffer Ashley,
self-proclaimed book nerd

 

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