Adventures, history fill the shelves at Raus’ Mecosta Book Gallery

LOOKING: Stan Fortier, of Lake Isabella, looks at a variety of science fiction books on March 25 at the Mecosta Book Gallery. Fortier, like many others, stop by the quaint shop when he drives through the village or wants to see if there are any new books.

LOOKING: Stan Fortier, of Lake Isabella, looks at a variety of science fiction books on March 25 at the Mecosta Book Gallery. Fortier, like many others, stop by the quaint shop when he drives through the village or wants to see if there are any new books. (Pioneer photos/Brandon Fountain)

 

MECOSTA – The distinctive smell of old books hangs in the air, as shelves of thousands upon thousands line the walls.

Some sections inside the Mecosta Book Gallery are stacked so high they reach the ceiling; other nooks and crannies invite readers alike into worlds created by Louis L’amour, Ray Bradbury, James Patterson or William Shakespeare.

John Rau and his wife, Alexandra, have owned the Mecosta Book Gallery for the last 17 years, and continue acquiring a collection that has grown into a mountain of books from authors that reads like a who’s who of literary greats or about people who have significantly changed the world.

“We carry every type of book there is except hate,” John Rau pointed out. “We have something for everyone. We have hard cover and soft cover; there are classics in every genre of literature, modern or classic. Our main goal is to serve readers first and then collectors.”

BOOKS UPON BOOKS: John Rau, along with his wife, Alexandra (not shown), own the Mecosta Book Gallery located in Mecosta. Over the last 17 years, the Raus have brought in more than 100,000 to the bookstore. (

BOOKS UPON BOOKS: John Rau, along with his wife, Alexandra (not shown), own the Mecosta Book Gallery located in Mecosta. Over the last 17 years, the Raus have brought in more than 100,000 to the bookstore. (

From Harlequin romances to do-it-yourself instruction books and science fiction to literature’s most revered and adored, thousands upon thousands of books to locate what they are seeking among the shelves.

“We have customers who come from all over Michigan who frequent the bookstore,” he said. “I see a lot of young readers come in looking for a variety of books. They like the young adult books and the classics.”

On this day, John Rau is manning the counter, which has conspicuously become a little more crowded as stacks of books rise into the air. His wife is staying at home, he said, to get the garden ready for planting.

“She’s also looking for books,” he said with a warm smile. “We’re always looking for more books.”

Rau said the backbone of keeping a bookstore open is catering to readers — whether it’s keeping up to speed on the newest trends for young readers or having a selection for returning customers. The most important facet, Rau said, is having books available to readers at a reasonable price.

“It’s impossible to have every book ever here, but we look to offer all sorts of books,” he said. “Even if they aren’t popular, someone is always looking for something to read.”

Whenever Stan Fortier, of Lake Isabella, is passing through the area, he likes to stop into the Mecosta Book Gallery to see if the Raus have added any new books.

“The first time I came here I was looking for a certain book for a friend,” he said. “Now I come back to check to see if they have any more books.”

Fortier said he never has a problem finding something, as Rau is always helpful.

“He can tell you where every book is located in the store,” he said. “He’s very knowledgeable about what he has and even points out other books you might be interested in reading.”

Fortier said the bookstore in Mecosta fulfills a need not located in the area.

“There’s no big bookstore in the area,” he said. “You would think Mount Pleasant would have a Barnes and Noble, but it doesn’t.”

A fan of science fiction, Fortier said he reads two to three books at a time.

“It passes the time and keeps the mind sharp,” he said.

 A small sample of books at the Mecosta Book Gallery. The books of all genres from a variety of authors.

SELECTION: A small sample of books at the Mecosta Book Gallery. The books of all genres from a variety of authors.

That’s the thing about books, Rau pointed out: Each one provides a unique opportunity for its reader.

“With every book you read, you can see another soul forming right there in front of you,” he said. “You actually become another person and see what they see and get to experience what they experience.

“Long ago, it was one of the only forms of entertainment available to people.”

The rise in the popularity of e-books and e-readers won’t change Rau’s love of having a book in his hands.

“Print is not dead,” he said. “There’s a big place for e-books. I don’t have one, I don’t really have a use for one. There is a lot of information now that may be easier to access via the internet for instruction books and stuff like that. It’s not the same as having the book right there when you need it or want it.”

When the couple isn’t standing behind the counter or helping someone find a particular title, Rau said they are on always on the hunt, acquiring more books to fill the towering shelves lining the quaint, aging building.

“We travel to book stores and even make house calls to get books,” he said. “We have been doing this so long that we know what we want and are looking for.

“There are always requests, and we’re always bringing in new books or finding rare books. It’s nice to find books you want to keep in stock.”

Sometimes, Rau said, they buy books knowing they may or may not be able to resell at the bookstore.

“If you buy right, you’ll sell them,” he said. “You have a good idea at what will sell, and someone will usually buy it.”

With an inventory of more than 100,000 books, Rau said he has a supply of books ready to fill the void created when a book is sold. Some are stored across the street or even in the upstairs of the building.

“We’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and for about 17 years in Mecosta,” Rau said, noting the couple owned a bookstore in Grand Rapids. “When you’ve been doing it this long, you know what people want.”

Rau laughs off the notion he may have too many books.

“I’ll buy more,” he said. “There’s always a need, someone is always looking for something they want. There are a lot of readers in these parts and all of them are looking for a good book to read.”

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Posted by Brandon Fountain

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