Sweat Stained Review: Confessions of a Blue Collar Misfit
One for My Favorite Bookstore
By Dan Denton
I had a book release party for my new novel The Dead and the Desperate (Roadside Press) last Saturday. The turn out was great. So great that we ran out of chairs and books. The discussion moderated by Ohio Northern University professor, Kathe Devault, was worthy of some of our best academic halls. And maybe I will write a full story about how it all went down, but really, this gives me a chance to tell you about my favorite bookstore in the world, Gathering Volumes, the host of my celebration.
Gathering Volumes Bookstore is located at 196 E. South Boundary St in Perrysburg, OH and it’s owned and operated by two of my favorite people, Denise and Brian. Denise left a highly successful career in IT to found the independent store, despite many telling her that she was crazy. Books don’t make money. People don’t buy books. Bookstores close everyday all over the world. Thank goodness Denise didn’t listen, and opened Gathering Volumes Bookstore anyway.
I first stumbled in because my friend, the writer and musician Drew Coomer, told me about it. Then Coomer had the bright idea of roping me into co-hosting a monthly poetry reading there, and Denise and the bookstore welcomed us with enthusiasm. Drew and I hosted readings for over three years there, before the pandemic shut down everything in 2020. But those readings allowed me to visit the store once a month, at minimum, and every time I’ve visited, I’ve left with more smiles in my pocket than I came with.
The bookstore is in a strip mall, in a small shopping plaza. It’s next door to an ice cream and sweets shop, which already makes it an ideal afternoon. I can’t count how many times I’ve bought a book, and stopped over to read it with a baked treat and a cup of coffee next door. Or how many times I got my coffee and an after work snack there before hosting our monthly reading.
When you walk into Gathering Volumes, you’re always greeted with a hello, usually from Denise, although she does have at least two employees, and has had a dozen or more over the years. Sometimes she’ll hire local artists part-time, sometimes solely as an attempt to help put a little money in that artist’s pocket.
Immediately upon entering the bookstore, you’re assaulted by a sea of books, art, and bright cheery color. If you love books like I do, you’ll stop to orient yourself for a full minute every time you walk in. There are books everywhere. Shelves line every available wall, and there are books even on the tops of those shelves. There are tables jamming the floor space. Those tables have piles of books on top of, and underneath them. If you love books, this ain’t heaven, but it’s definitely one of its best rest stops on your journey there.
And they sell so much more than books. There’s puzzles, games, cross stitch kits, socks, shirts, bookmarks, earrings, bracelets, bags, posters, literary graffiti stencils, local sourced organic chocolates, and a large section of used books. As a blue collar working man, and Dad, I know the cost of books. I read more than my wallet allows, it’s why I haunt the local library like a weekly ghost hungry for words. I figure that in my lifetime, if you add the value of every book I’ve ever read, I have a million dollar library in my head. So, outside the library, a used book section is my honey hole. I’ve found some of my best treasures in Gathering Volume’s used book section. And, outside of friends and patrons occasionally gifting me gift cards elsewhere, any time there’s a new book I have to have, I order it from my friends in Perrysburg.
I don’t know how much money I’ve spent at Gathering Volumes over the years, but I’ve bought a lot of cool literary gifts and books there. It’s a great spot to find a cool trinket for a loved one.
I found my Ginsberg Reader there. It was new, and like $28. But worth every penny, as it’s full of Allen’s best poems and essays. I once found a used copy of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple in the used section for $4. That’s one of the five best books ever written. I’m open for debate on it, but no one has yet convinced me otherwise. My youngest kid found their brand of love for books at Gathering Volumes. They’re a visual artist and musician type of artist so far in their young life, and I couldn’t find a way to get their nose in any books. On one visit to the store, Denise suggested a particular young adult Manga series, and my child has devoured over a hundred Mangas since then. That’s a gift a parent can’t put a price on.
They have an entire section dedicated to local authors. They stock and sell my books, and hundreds of others from local writers. They display local art from local artists, and rotate it quarterly, featuring over a hundred local artists in their existence. The store hosts authors multiple times a week, provides the books for dozens of local school’s book fairs, and works to get grants to donate books to schools in our area that need books the most. They host an annual local author fair in conjunction with local writer Curtis Deeter. It has hosted dozens of local authors.
If you order online, they’ll deliver it to you via the post office, or local delivery. Yes, they’ll bring the books to your home. That’s how strongly they believe in making books accessible to as many as possible. They also have a mobile book van that has provided a small bookstore to areas that don’t have bookstore access. They even sell audio books.
Gathering Volumes is a successful independent bookstore because they have ingrained themselves as one of the good things our community so desperately needs. They are the epitome of the value of a community having an independent bookstore. One owned by someone that loves and cares for, and lives in our community. One that sees the benefit in supporting the local art scene, and has made themselves a hub for local artistic collaboration. One that has donated firewood and baked goods to not only the UAW strike that’s ongoing at our Toledo Jeep plant, but other strikes before this one.
One of the things that Denise and I talked about the first time I met her, as soon as she found I was a union autoworker, was how her father was a steel worker, active in his union, and how that blue collar union job paid for her college education at Notre Dame. Sorry Denise, thats an impressive thing folks should celebrate. And we talked about how Brian has always been a union member in the international stagehands union, and how he’s done technical theater work all over the world. Denise and Brian are union people. The best of what unions are and can be.
And I’ve been waiting til the end to tell you my favorite part about Gathering Volumes. It introduced me to Denise and Brian, the owners, two humans that are amongst the best, kindest, and most wholesome that I’ve ever known. As their friend, they’ve celebrated my best times in life with me, hosting my two book release parties for my two novels, and they’ve looked out for me in my hardest years, too. Always checking on me, and even hiring me as a driver dozens of times when I was broke and struggling. I was thinking when I sat down to write this, that I’ve never stepped foot in their home, despite dozens of invitations to do so, but I have spent probably more hours in conversation with them over the years, at the bookstore, on trips to the airport, and at local art and music events, than most any other friends that I have. And how important they are, and the bookstore, too, to who I am as I writer, and man. No local blue collar writer, and union man in the world has found better friends than Brian, Denise and Gathering Volumes.
Whether you’re in northwest Ohio, driving through, or in another state, one of the things you can do that makes me the happiest, is buy your books at Gathering Volumes. You can stop in for the full on book lover’s hour of paradise, or order your books online. I’m pretty sure there’s free shipping. You can get my books there, and almost any book that’s in print and for sale. And you’d be helping my favorite bookstore in the world. I have probably visited 100 indie bookstores. I stop at one most every trip out of town. I’ve seen many of the most famous one’s in America. But Gathering Volumes will always be my home. My indie bookstore. The one that serves my community. That supports me and hundreds of other local artists and writers. The one that’ll have my book lover’s heart forever.
Dan Denton is a former union auto worker, and chief union steward turned full-time writer. He loves books, and if you do, too, you can buy his latest novel The Dead and the Desperate at Gathering Volumes Bookstore, in person or online, or at www.magicaljeep.com