Three stores, I have in mind.
One is the coffee place. No real clutter there. He keeps the place so bare, so free of the guile and squalor of advertising and the glib meaningless surfaces of modern commerce that one is surprised to find he’s been there for twelve years. It always has the air of being a startup, waiting to be decorated by some soul-less interior decorator. But it is not. And he roasts his coffee there on a small roaster, and offers three options, that’s it, and they are all good: I will buy no other unless providentially hindered.
The second is Karen Wycliffe’s, one of the three remaining independent used book-stores that I know of in these parts. Always a monument of clutter. It seems every time I go there’s less space at the counter for the transaction to take place. Sometimes the lower shelves are visible in some aisles, often not. Always stacked books like ice in a February parking lot in great immoveable heaps. Always among the tides of books some curious thing to find.
The third is the pen place. All these shops bear the eccentricity (which I celebrate) of their owners, but this has to be the most. His hat, his manner, his discourse, the paraphernalia jumbled there. The place has not been tidied in ages, and I wonder very much if he even tries. I am sorry I so seldom need ink, and I refuse to buy it elsewhere because going to that rampantly non-commercial commercial establishment does my heart good.
Vanishing places perhaps, but still around and the more precious for being rare. Islands of dignity, two of them don’t even take a credit card, that’s how indifferent they are to the financial behemoth of our commercial age. Nothing like a curious shop not given to the doctrines and fatuities of marketing, the obsequious convenience of the fastidious and unintelligent customer, but to the expression of an odd humanity. I spend my money gladly there.