Independent Bookstores of Lincoln

by Aja Martin

Lincoln has two independent (non-chain) stores for new books and three for used books. These are the stores that are for Lincolnites, by Lincolnites, and whose profits stay in the community.

Each of these stores offer a completely different feel and experience. They cater to different niches and, most importantly, that allows everyone to work cooperatively to fulfill Lincoln’s needs. Each store partners with the others on different events and projects. Every single one has called the others to check for a book on behalf of their customers. That is the heart of the Lincoln community—neighbors helping neighbors.

A Novel Idea

Started in 1991 by Cinnamon Dokken and a partner, it moved to its famous downtown location the next year. Cinnamon is now the sole owner and her store manager is Katherine Bergstrom. They sell used books, with a selection of collectible ones, and fun gift products like their Husker Read shirts.

Right when you walk in the door, Cinnamon wants you to feel, “Welcomed—and excited. There’s a lot to discover and I want you to feel comfortable on your treasure hunt.” This is both literal and metaphoric. Used bookstores give you a chance to find books that would otherwise be lost to you. A Novel Idea has touches of art hidden all around. Each bookcase, made by Cinnamon and her father, features carvings at the top. There is a custom designed stained glass window. Hit the stairs to their additional floor and see individual book murals on each step. Is your favorite title amongst the stack?

Lincoln locals will find fresh stock weekly so there is always a reason to stop in again. For tourists looking for an experience, not just a book, A Novel Idea has two very good attractions—Eddy and Charlie. “Our cats are a big part of our store. And they help people feel welcomed right away. Even the people all buttoned up for work have been known to crouch down and say, “Hey, big guy, how you doing?” There has long been a connection between stores and pets and A Novel Idea is the only bookstore with cats in Lincoln! They have a website and you can follow them on Facebook.

Francie & Finch Bookshop

Leslie Huerta retired from the travel business in 2016 to open her dream shop. Before launch she had used her breaks to walk around downtown Lincoln window shopping for her future storefront. The picturesque green iron stairwell on the side of her building gives it a New York feeling—perfect as one half of her name comes from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The other half comes from To Kill a Mockingbird

To show how serious they are about welcoming you, “We always have complementary refreshments. Right now there is raspberry iced tea and in the wintertime we usually have hot cider, coffee or hot chocolate.” Leslie wants you to feel comfortable to take your time checking things out. And there is plenty to see. 

Francie & Finch has new books, gift items and a small vinyl selection. One permanent art piece has become a store mascot for them—it was a thrift store find. Opening week, artist Jordan Lambrecht walked in and recognized it as a school art project he had placed on a curb several years prior.

There are things, admittedly with a less vivid backstory, tucked throughout the store to be discovered. For those who like to turn a corner and find a new little spot you missed the first time, the layout is perfect. Part of that appeal comes from Leslie’s belief that, “Curiosity is the most underrated virtue and bookstore people are curious.” 

For those traveling to Lincoln, Francie & Finch is located near a collection of hotels in downtown Lincoln and is a great place to stop in before or after dinner or a show. If you’re having a really great vacation, you could stop in before and after. They have a website and you can follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Badger’s Bookshop

Bookstore people love a good story, which is why there is always one attached to their names. In this case, the name has two references—Mr. Badger from The Wind in the Willowsand a group of friends of owner, Will Locke, that call themselves the Badger Brothers. Badger’s Books opened in 2015, features used books and is located in the College View area.

“My aspiration to be a bookseller was solidified on a trip to Dorset, England in a little town called Wool, where my great grandfather emigrated from. There was a tiny bookshop near there.” This is very close to the home of English author Thomas Hardy, whose books were staples in those local bookshops. “I knew that I would enjoy the experience of selling books by Thomas Hardy, and those by Nebraska writers who had made similar efforts to describe a place and the people who inhabit the land.” 

That dream of dedicating space to writers who could exemplify Nebraska as thoroughly as Hardy did England, gave rise to a large section of the shop being dedicated to local authors. Just as those authors show us the beauty of Nebraska, Will displays the breadth of local writing available. “I could go on for a long time about my Nebraska favorites and as a warning, I might do that if asked in the shop.” 

This is the person to go to for gift advice on a hard to shop for friend that loves our state. For tourists, if you catch Will in the shop, he would love to talk road trips and travel tips as Nebraska has a lot of unique places to visit that won’t show up on a google search.

For Lincoln residents and tourists, no stop to his shop would be complete without walking along the other local shops that line the street. Will is a big advocate for shopping local and for shopping College View in particular. You can get a treat at Goldenrod Bakery, match a kids’ book you bought from him with a new toy in Paper Kite, and then visit Fields Floral for a dose of that natural Nebraska beauty. You can follow them on Facebook.

Indigo Bridge Books & Café

IBB opened in 2008 and is approaching it’s 10th anniversary. Depending on which entrance you use, you’ll either be greeted by Indigo’s brand new café or by the two story fabric tree art installation that has been there since the beginning. Alongside new books, food, and coffee, Indigo also features a large selection of gift items. It is nestled in the Historic Haymarket in The Creamery Building, where you can also visit their neighbors for ice cream, art, and entertainment.

As Lincoln’s only independent bookstore that serves food, Indigo has another surprise up its sleeve—it has an attached nonprofit that is dedicated to literacy outreach. Indigo has one dedicated staff member that works with additional staff to partner with LPS and get books into the hands of Lincoln children. The nonprofit arm does both adult and youth events inside the store that are free to the public. 

Assistant Manager and Head Book Buyer, Tory Hall, highlights a unique feature that sets Indigo apart from other bookstores. “Every employee ‘owns’ different sections that match their interests and they have a budget to order books for them. This means every book in the store has been hand-selected by someone who truly cares about that topic. Even if I don’t know anything about cookbooks, I can direct a customer to our cookbook shelf and am confident that whatever they find there, it’s a book that has been specially chosen with care.”

They have a website and you can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Bluestem Books

Bluestem features used, rare and out-of-print books that they “…buy high and sell low. It may be counter-intuitive, but it has worked for us.” It must be working as they opened in 1984 and are approaching their 35th anniversary. They moved locations a few years back but remain in the Historic Haymarket, still have their iconic blue awning and are third generation family owned.

Lincolnites and tourists alike will have fun talking with the staff of dedicated book lovers. They occupy a special place in Lincoln, where they are able to sift through people’s private collections and help preserve pieces of history. They also do their best to watch out for personal connections. Several times they have found a book that should be reunited with a former owner (or former owner’s family) and did so because it was the right thing to do.

While A Novel Idea has the market on bookstore cats, Bluestem is the only Lincoln bookshop with store dogs. Miss Maribel and Don Diego might not be able to help you find the book you were seeking but they will help you have a wonderful day while on the hunt.

They have a website and you can follow them on Facebook.

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