March 6, 2016 by carlywont
Last Tuesday I parked in downtown Troy for the first time. Ever. In my life. Pathetic, coming from someone who grew up in the Capital Region.
But when I was a kid, no one went to downtown Troy. No one that I knew of at least. My only childhood experiences with Troy were the Albany-Rensselaer train station (and the requisite Dunkin’ Donuts stop around the corner), Brown’s Brewing and the Turkish restaurant my best friend would drag me to so she could indulge her weakness for pide and iskender kabobs.
But I started to have a vague idea that the “Troy-let” harbored a hip, artsy crew when I interned at Metroland during college (RIP Metroland) and my favorite editor lived there (proudly). And ever since I moved back to the area last summer, friends have been telling me to check it out, citing places like Peck’s Arcade, Slidin’ Dirty and Rare Form. (All three are still on my “to-explore” list.)
Anyway, when it came to finding a local hair stylist who could cut my hair short without making it look like Kate Gosselin’s soccer mom look (a seemingly hard thing to do), I took it to Troy. I found myself at Karma Hair Studio (where I got a killer cut from Stephanie, by the way) and very happily noticed Market Block Books across the street.
A family friend of mine suggested checking the place out when I made a call for 518 bookstores on social media, so I popped in after my appointment. Before going, I had pictured a dingy, small but indie bookstore with a haphazard collection of new and used Kurt Vonnegut novels. Thankfully, I was so wrong!
I walked into an airy, bright, large space. I noticed they had the IndieBound bestsellers list printed and posted on the entrance, which I appreciated. It reminded me that I really needed to buy H is for Hawk since my book club is reading it this month.
Never one to shy away from talking to booksellers, I immediately asked for help in finding H is for Hawk. The woman working was totally pleasant, knew right where to find it and informed me of all the accolades the book won last year. At that point, I was riding high on Market Block Books.
Things went a little downhill when I asked for two other books, neither of which they had. No matter, though. I couldn’t think of the name of one of them and another Market Block worker knew what I was talking about right away (Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, it turns out).
During checkout, my mind was totally blown. About to pay, the cashier asked me if I had a stamp card. I reflexively replied, “No,” seeing as I’d never been there before in my life, but she pointed to a card sticking out of my wallet and said, “You have one right there.” She was pointing to my Book House frequent buyer card.
Market Block Books and The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza are run by the same people. Whaaaaat!? I don’t know why this was so surprising to me, but it was. I was a little disappointed that these shops weren’t two great independently owned bookstores in the Capital Region but I recovered when I realized I could use my $15 Book House credit to buy a second book (I went for Some Luck by Jane Smiley, FYI).
Overall, I much preferred the Market Block Books space, though I’m a big fan of the Little Book House.
Here’s the scoop on Market Block Books.
- Knowledgeable, friendly staff who actually know about books
- Cool location
- Good gardening / urban farming selection
- Perfect size, not too big, not too small
- Lots of windows; cheery space
- Woman-owned business
- No coffee
- Not the greatest kids’ section and the board books were not in a very obvious, toddler-friendly location
- Small poetry section
- No parking
Verdict: Definitely recommend. Who needs poetry and coffee anyway?