Joseph-Beth Booksellers is a small chain bookstore that is very different from most chain bookstores. The first store was opened by Neil and Mary Beth Van Uum in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1986. In 1993, a second store was opened in Cincinnati, Ohio. In late 1997, Joseph-Beth Booksellers purchased Davis-Kidd Booksellers, whose owners were retiring. This added four stores, in Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, and Jackson, Tennessee. The Knoxville store closed in January of 1997. Near the end of the year 2000, Joseph-Beth Booksellers opened a store in Cleveland, Ohio, on Shaker Square, just across from the former location of Cleveland Antiquarian Books.(1) They also maintain a web presence at www.josephbeth.com.
Joseph-Beth Booksellers provides a different sort of experience from most chain bookstores.(2) The stores have better illumination and a more interesting design. The lighting is far better than any big chain (or most any other bookstore I have been in) – natural light, and light that approximates natural light are used heavily. Extra illumination is provided over chairs and other places where people would tend to look at the contents of books. The shelves are set up more like a used bookstore, not on the grid layout of most of the chains. (This is a good thing, not disorienting in the slightest.) The store feels comfortable.
The selection and display of books is different, too. To put a greater selection of books in a smaller store, there is generally not more than one or two copies of a book on the shelf, the extra space being used for greater selection of books on that subject. For topics where there might be many different versions of a book, like classic literature, there are fewer cheap paperbacks (enough, though), and a better selection of the more expensive editions or translations. The selection of books is more interesting than most of the chains. The staff are generally well read, and interesting to talk with. And, of course, as is required these days, a café is part of the store.
If I had money to spend on new books, this is where I would spend it.
1. Joseph-Beth Booksellers did not have anything to do with the closing of Cleveland Antiquarian Books. Cleveland Antiquarian Books closed due to significantly higher than average prices, lack of a local market strong enough to support the business, and competition from used bookstores on the internet.
2. My opinion, based mainly upon my experience with their Cleveland store, but also a little from the web site. If you have contradicting information, please /msg me or add to this.