Essay: Main Street Books in Old St. Charles Part 1

You know when you have to cross a wide lazy river and drive your car down an old brick paved street to get to a bookstore, the trip will be well worth it.

I’m talking about Main Street Books located at 307 South Main Street in old historic St. Charles, MO. I’ve taken many a visitor to Main Street, usually on a Sunday afternoon only to find most of the shops closed, but the bookstore has always been overlooked until now.

Historic Main Street has the feel of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street but without all the beads, drinking, and debauchery. It has the lush charm of old Savannah, Georgia, or any Southern city for that matter who has held on to its old town feel.

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The lantern-lit streets are lined with old brick buildings, mostly home to restaurants and retail shops now, that cater to yesterday with its arts and crafts, old time candy shops, wine stores, pubs, ice cream parlors, and touristy destinations but with a certain Mark Twain flare instead.

It’s also extremely clean and family friendly, with lush greenery and flowers everywhere you turn, making it a quaint “best kept secret” kind of destination instead of a tourist trap that locals would avoid.

And near the end of the street, there’s a bookstore!

Upon entering, I was immediately greeted by the cashier. You know what that means!  I had to make a purchase! I even came with a book in mind, which I found on the front New Release table, but I decided to give the entire store a browse first before picking up my selection.

When you walk in, you find yourself in a small cramped space taken up mostly by the check-out stand. However, the tall ceilings lend a certain atmosphere to the space, so you don’t feel like the place is closing in.

There’s a New Release table right in front of you, some gift book displays and cards, mysteries and bestsellers lining the walls. This space opens up into a nice mezzanine accessible by a small stairway that leads up and to the back giving the overall downstairs its “warm and cozy” charm that the bookstore’s website boasts about.

The structure of the old building is a mix of brick and wood adding to that old time charm as well.

The mezzanine is not so cramped and is devoted to a wonderful selection of children’s books with two quaint windows looking out to the back of the building.

For history buffs, just to the right at the top of the stairs there’s a nice tight local section with Mark Twain and Lewis and Clark front and center.

I almost thought this was it. I had noticed a narrow set of wooden stairs back up front to the left of the entrance, but the sign labeling the sections that were upstairs was not very prominent. It wasn’t until I noticed another customer coming in and immediately going upstairs that I even knew I could go up there.

Upon climbing the stairs, you walk into a wide hallway devoted to young adult. It was a nice clean section with all the bestsellers clearly labeled.