There is something about opening up a new book, hearing the spine slightly make a cracking noise, and smelling fresh paper that never gets old. Any book you can ever imagine is sitting perfectly placed and organized beautifully at The Book Loft at 631 South 3rd Street, in Columbus, Ohio; but more commonly known in German Village. Their doors are open daily, letting in a cool breeze along with birds singing outside from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and often have special events throughout the year. They host many events such as author signings, book festivals and meet and greets.
While there is no parking lot for the book store, there is a lot of street parking available not too far away from the entrance. The short walk from your car to the Book Loft allows you to take in the wondrous scenery around German Village. According to the Book Loft website, bookloft.com, “The pre-Civil War era buildings that once were general stores, a saloon, and a nickelodeon cinema, now are home to 32 rooms of Bargain Books”, known as the Book Loft.
The Book Loft structure was built by German immigrants in 1863 and officially opened in 1977 and started with only three rooms. Since then, the building has expanded eight times. Once neighboring businesses would go out of business or shut down, they would buy the space and reconstruct. Roger Tompkins and Carl Jacobsma were the original owners of the Book Loft, but later, in 1981, another owner joined them by the name of Russ Iler. Tompkins has since passed away in 2012.
This Columbus gem is a true staple in Ohian culture, if you ask me. 32 rooms! Can it get any better than that? The rooms are not very big, but they are filled to the brim with all kinds of books. One book I randomly picked up had a beautiful poem inside that read, “I kissed your birthmarks- little islands on your skin; new, discovered lands.” Not knowing what to expect, these few short lines did not disappoint. Not only is the Book Loft filled with deep words and stories, but also with people. Whether they be alone, in groups, or couples, it is no secret that many people find a way to enjoy the Book Loft.
There is more than one entrance to this bookstore, but there is no true way to begin diving into this place. Upon entering, visitors can pick up a colorful, easy to follow map of the store explaining each section. Wherever you choose to start the journey of finding new books, you will be delighted. From Jane Austen novels to children’s books, to autobiographies, to books in foreign languages, the opportunity to expand your mind is endless. There are also a large group of books carefully and delicately signed by their authors. All books at the Book Loft are new and never used. A lot of people assume that this is a used book store, because of the amount and the variety of books, but in fact, they are all brand new. Not only are the books never used, but all paperbacks and hardcovers are 5-90% off of their original selling price. According to their website, “Many of these bargain books are not stocked by other chain bookstores or even found on other bookselling websites, especially at these prices!”
When first arriving at the Book Loft, not only will you be overwhelmed with all of the books you see, but also how narrow the pathways are to walk through. Luckily, each room is labeled to make it a bit easier to navigate when strolling through the halls. There are small signs hanging from the ceiling reading things such as: “nonfiction,” “mystery,” “philosophy,” “health and home,” “poetry” and so on. There are also many direction signs with arrows pointing to where rooms are located. For example, there is a sign in the hallway reading “Upper East Rooms 17-25” pointing in the direction where the nonfiction books are, including biographies, business, history, science, and art. It is easy to get lost in this building, but luckily there are many friendly staff members to help guide you. Almost all employees wear a Book Loft graphic t-shirt, so they are easy to spot.
Employee Nikolas L., who decided not to share his last name, says, “I've worked at the Book Loft for almost a year now - I was hired last November. It's difficult to name a single favorite part of the store, as at this point it feels like a second home to me. The people I work with are my favorite part of my job.”
“What makes working as a bookseller unique is the entire world of book selling, publishing, and working directly with readers. It is a complex system of which I am a part of. I never dreamed I would interact with authors on a personal level as I do now. I hope that I will work here for many years to come.”
Nikolas was not the only person who had positive things to say about the Book Loft; two young ladies, Amber T. and Celeste W. were shopping around the poetry section when I bumped into them. They told me they were best friends and go to the Book Loft all of the time.
“With this many books, I can just take two steps over to try a new genre, I do that often.” exclaimed Celeste.
“I just think this place is so cute. I don’t know of anywhere else like this...And they’re all new books? Come on. It's amazing.” said Amber.
“I agree. I discovered this place about two years ago, just from walking around this area. With a Starbucks across the street, it is the perfect place to relax and have a self-care day. I come here by myself quite often - sorry Amber.”
Many people agreed that when they go to the Book Loft, they feel very relaxed. There are eighteen sound systems across the store, playing different genre-specific soundtracks in different rooms. The music helps you feel in the scene of whatever book it is that you pick up. If, when listening, you like the songs, you can purchase the music as they list their playlist on the wall, so you can look and or ask for it. While there may not be any places to sit and read inside the Book Loft, there is a beautiful garden right outside near one of the entrances. There is a brick path leading into and out of the Book Loft. While walking on the path, it is surrounded by a variety of flowers in all colors, trees, pinwheels, vines and bumblebees. There are numerous benches along this path that people will sit on and read their newly purchased books.
If you are not a huge reader, there are many other things you can purchase and/or look at when visiting the Book Loft. They also sell greeting cards (birthday, thinking of you, congratulations, etc.), animated clocks imported from Germany, t-shirts, bookmarks, puzzles, posters and much more. Almost all the stairways are lined with merchandise (mostly book themed) to give as the perfect gift or keep for yourself.
Another happy customer, Lamonte P., was browsing alone in the “Lower West Wing” section of the store when I approached him.
“I try to come here once a month to pick my wife up a new book. She has a hard time walking around, and we’re getting old, so I come pick one out that I think she would like.” Lamonte told me that he had been going to the Book Loft for the past year or so, ever since his wife had to get back surgery and can’t get around like she used to.
“She always gives me a hard time about how bored she is and how the news is too much to watch all of the time, so I find some new cooking books for her and we both get a win.”, Lamonte chuckled.
The Book Loft is not wheelchair accessible. Luckily, you can find books online, and they will be shipped to you or can be picked up. When ordering a book online off of their website, it will be shipped within seven business days and can be tracked to see the status. Also, if the book needs to be returned for any reason, there will be a full refund excluding shipping cost as long as it is in new condition and is within seven days since you received your order.
The Book Loft has been a true gem in Columbus for decades. In the late 2000s, there were some difficulties keeping it afloat due to the rise of internet users, but since the mid-2010s, they have recovered financially due to the unique ambiance. It is easy to appreciate books and reading when there is such a warm and welcoming environment like the Book Loft. The Book Loft owners plan to keep this store as the only one, as they do not want to become a chain or recreate it. So, the Book Loft is and will always be one of a kind. Young to old, rich to poor, the Book Loft is a place anyone can go to expand their mind and have a good experience.