As a book lover and serial book hoarder, I love nothing more than adventuring in bookstores and trying to find new titles to add to my collection. For a small community, we are lucky to have seven independent bookstores.
In this series, I will be visiting our local booksellers, chronicling my experiences and sharing a few things that patrons might be interested in: how the store began, what it specializes in, what the owners think bookstores add to the community and additional ways to support them.
I hope you can take the time to visit each place because they all have a great vibe and some great offerings!
Owner: Heidi Raak
Year Opened: 2019
Location: 317 Steele St., Algoma
Approaching Yardstick for the first time, I couldn’t help the gasp that escaped my mouth. The sunshine-yellow storefront and large windows created a vibrant beacon that beckoned me to enter.
Then I found that the openness of the store, along with its tall ceilings, make the space feel very modern and breathable. The light floors and walls are illuminated by the natural light flowing in. The store setup favors shelving along the walls, with a few tables and bookshelves down the center that typically feature books within a certain theme or genre.
As you travel farther in, there’s a cute, cozy corner dedicated to children’s books and toys. The space inspires fun and imagination.
In addition to the collection of titles, Yardstick offers quirky greeting cards and stationery items, along with longboards made by local craftsperson Josh Schwader of Sweet Roll Longboard. The boards are prominently displayed up front, creating a striking accent piece.
I checked in with owner Heidi Raak to talk about her store, and here’s what I learned.
Raak has worked in bookselling and publishing off and on for most of her life. She most recently owned a bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas, for 10 years, and after moving to Algoma with her partner in 2018, she realized that she missed bookstore culture and owning a business. Now she lives above the store and has created the space she wanted.
One thing I noticed while browsing the shelves was that there were more books I was unfamiliar with than ones I was familiar with – which always makes for a fun and informative shopping experience!
Although Yardstick is a general store that carries new books in a variety of genres, Raak tends to buy a lot of titles from small presses or short-run titles, which means that bibliophiles are more likely to find something new. In addition, she has an interest in literary fiction, especially translated literature, so the regionality of authors is diverse.
Bookstores and the Community
“I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, especially in light of the pandemic and my own health journey,” Raak began. “Bookstores provide space for, support and celebrate authors, especially local authors and community members. Before the pandemic and hopefully in the near future, I expect Yardstick to host author and community events, sponsor and host book clubs, and be a meeting space for local organizations.
“Yardstick – and all independent bookstores – add to the local tax base, employ folks and spend money in the community. We donate to Algoma nonprofits, Concerts in the Park, Soar on the Shore and [make] innumerable small donations to community organizations. We promote literacy and demonstrate that writers provide a service and art that deserve remuneration and respect.”
Yardstick also has a furry, feline friend named Carrotpants who enjoys browsing the shelves and visiting with customers.
The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enríquez (a translated book) and The Silence of Bones by June Hur.
Show Some Love
You can support Yardstick by making in-store purchases, ordering through bookshop.org/shop/yardstick or buying your audiobooks at libro.fm/yardstickbooks.