The Book Barn in Connecticut Might Be the Best Place on Earth
In the spirit of our celebration of independent bookstores and the cats that come with them, Amanda Barstow of the Instagram @bookstorecats shares her experience visiting The Book Barn in Niantic, Connecticut.
What could be better than an outdoor bookstore in a bucolic setting near the ocean, with over 350,000 titles to choose from? Now add in some goats, ample nooks for reading, and, of course, cats. That’s the reality of The Book Barn, a compound established in 1988.
When it first started, The Book Barn was only three bookcases and a couch in the basement of a repurposed three-story barn in Niantic, Connecticut. Today, the compound consists of five buildings in addition to the titular barn, and is home to five adult cats: Tabic, Pipkin, Mao, Evinrude and Speck, and two new kittens!
On a brief visit last summer, I picked up their patented Cat Spotting Guide, got some tips from the super friendly booksellers, and was able to meet Miss Mao, Evinrude and Pipkin while strolling through this book lover’s paradise. Evinrude, and Mao were the easiest to find and, as indicated, were friendly and eager to mug for the camera. They greeted me at the entrance to the Main Barn, which is filled from floor to ceiling with books organized by genre.
The number of cats on the premises fluctuates as new cats are adopted, and old cats find their way to the eternal kibble bowl in the sky. Not so long ago, there were close to 30 cats roaming the expansive grounds from the gardens to the Haunted Book Shop. Glenn Shea, one of the managers, mused that cats have been a fixture at the Book Barn since day one—not for their rodent catching capabilities, but for the simple fact that “we just like cats.” All five cats permanently reside on the grounds and are free to come and go as they please.
I came across Pipkin in one of the gardens by the goats, but he was more interested in grooming than receiving any attention; he evaded the advances of a friendly woman and her daughter despite all their best efforts to woo him. I plan on making another pilgrimage in the coming months to meet the new kittens and the elusive Tabic and Speck.
In addition to frolicking felines, The Book Barn is also home to a boatload of bargains. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a book that costs more than $4 here, and the stacks are thoughtfully and cheekily organized with genre headings ranging from Books on Books to, my personal favorite, Paranormal Romance. The staff and owners, Randi and Maureen White, clearly love what they do and have cultivated a truly unique destination for readers, writers, collectors and cat-lovers alike.
The Book Barn is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They accept donations for the Compassion for Cats shelter in New London, CT, or you can purchase some of their swag to support the Book Barn kitties.
Featured image via @paymewhatuoweme on Instagram
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