Bluegrass & Books in Telluride


Well, here we are in Telluride, and all the rumors are true – it is one of the most beautiful places that I have ever seen. The town of Telluride is in a natural bowl surrounded by mountains, which means that your view from Main Street is staggering, and that it’s not unusual to see a paraglider drifting over the coffee shop as you are eating breakfast!

Downtown Telluride, tucked in under mountains
Downtown Telluride, tucked in under mountains

Our first stop in Telluride was the world-famous Telluride Bluegrass Festival, now in its 41st year. Wow. It was amazing – all day-into-the-night music, great food, great people, and even a children’s parade with puppets. Here’s some photos of a fabulous four days:

The Dave Rawlings Machine onstage at Telluride
The Dave Rawlings Machine onstage at Telluride


Children's Parade!
Children’s Parade!


The Hula-Hoop  "Dance floor."
The Hula-Hoop “Dance floor.”

After the music, it was back to books – this time at Between the Covers, a fixture on Main Street since 1974.

Between the Covers
Between the Covers

The Co-owners of Between the Covers, Daiva Chesonis and Bobbi T Smith, run the bookstore with an eye both to local interests like skiing, rafting, and climbing, and a strong connection to the many festivals that happen in Telluride. For example, if you look closely at the photo below, you’ll see that all of the books in the window all have to do with the Bluegrass Festival (not so sure about the mullet wigs!)

Skiing, cake, books, & bluegrass - what could be better?
Skiing, cake, books, & bluegrass – what could be better?

Another huge festival for the bookstore, is, believe it or not, the annual Mushroom Festival! Mushroom fanatics are apparently readers as well, and mushroom book sales can be banked for off-season rent. In a nice small-world moment, Langdon Cook, a writer with whom I read at a New England Review/Middlebury College  reading a few weeks ago, is the keynote speaker for this year’s mushroom festival. Way to go, Langdon! I had a great chat with Daiva and Bobbi, and then went back to the Alpine Coffee Shop, which is ingeniously located in the back of the bookstore.

With Bobbi and Daiva
With Bobbi and Daiva
The Alpine Coffee Shop in the back of the bookstore
The Alpine Coffee Shop in the back of the bookstore

Daiva told me that every day people come in sniffing the coffee aroma, and then find themselves buying books! The bookstore rents the space to the cafe, and the combination really seems to work for everyone. In fact, I’m typing this blog from the Alpine Coffee shop, surrounded by books and accompanied by a home-made chai.

Here's Leah, who both sells books up front and serves coffee in the back...
Here’s Leah, who both sells books up front and serves coffee in the back…

I asked Daiva and Bobbi what they are loving these days, and they both had picks: Daiva recommends “Counting by 7’s,” by Holly Goldberg Sloan, and Bobbi picked E. Lockhart’s “We Were Liars,” a YA book that she said blew her away. So of course I bought both books – the Subaru traveling library continues to grow!

Like the other bookstore owners that I’ve spoken to, Between the Covers relies heavily on local support, and on people being aware of the value of buying local. But they are also indispensable to the many people just passing through Telluride, whether for a festival of mountain films, mushrooms, or music, or hikers, bikers, boaters, skiers, and climbers. And while it is probably best to own your real estate, in Telluride that would be a real stretch for a bookstore. So when Bobbi and Daiva took over the bookstore in 2010 (they were previously the manager and the buyer), they made a deal with the former owner and bought inventory and assets, keeping the owner as landlord. They since have acquired a new landlord, but Daiva says, and this is key, it is a landlord who is invested in having a thriving bookstore in the community.

I’m also noticing that bookstore wonderfulness depends heavily on the people who are running the show. At Between the Covers, Daiva, Bobbi, and Leah really, really know their stuff, and just as important, they are super friendly and welcoming. I had a blast hanging out with them, and we are only sorry that we have to leave Telluride…but next up on the Indie Bookstore Roadtrip is a  potluck/reading/signing in the mountains – so stay tuned!

The view from our campsite - we will miss you, Telluride!
The view from our campsite – we will miss you, Telluride!

2 Responses to Bluegrass & Books in Telluride

  1. love the photos and good news from these fab book stores. you are making me want a chai… keep the reports coming!

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