Last Saturday we went to the 18th Annual Fall Art Tour that snakes through the open studios of artists in Southwestern Wisconsin. It was a gorgeous day; I'm sure exactly what the organizers hope for each year. In addition to looking at (and buying) art, we made a point of stopping at the new independent bookseller in Spring Green: Arcadia Books. It's located on the ground floor of a beautifully restored 1872 post office building. And it has everything you want in a good bookstore: a wide array of subjects and titles, pleasant staff, framed New Yorker posters about books and reading, high ceilings and uneven old wood floors, food, coffee, and wine and beer. I could practically live there!
While the food is geared to carryout customers, there were two soups and fabulous mini quiches (Caprese and Lorraine the day we were there). You can also pick an entree from the cooler, they heat it up for you and everything is served warm and toasty. I had curried carrot soup with the Caprese quiche and Mark had chicken fried rice. Everything was delicious. Also on the menu are sandwiches, wraps, salads, and desserts. Then we grabbed lattes to drink while we browsed.
I found the new Jane Hirshfield poetry book, "Come, Thief," which I had read about in the New York Times but did not have much hope of finding in Madison. Mark got a book on philosophy and another on science. As someone with lots of books on cooking, gardening and interior design I thought the selections in those categories were excellen; they included titles both familiar and new. Even though the garden and design sections were not large, they should appeal to a varied audience.
Former Cap Times reporter Joe Schoenmann will be reading from his new book, "Vegas Rag Doll" — a true life account of the spouse of a Vegas hitman — at 7 p.m. this Friday, Oct. 21. Too bad I can't make it as I could trade stories about the wife of a NJ mobster that I once knew.
The store is named for owner James Bohnen’s favorite play, “Arcadia,” by Tom Stoppard, and I noticed a copy prominently on display. Bohnen recently stepped down as founding artistic director of Chicago's Remy Bumppo Theatre Company. This past summer, he directed Shakespeare's "The Tempest" for nearby American Players Theatre. You can find out more about Arcadia Books, including ordering books, at their aptly named web site: read in utopia.
We ran into a friend on the Art Tour who told us about Convivio, otherwise we might have missed it — even though it is visible from Arcadia Books. While they had some lovely art for the Tour weekend, it was their wonderful array of kitchen and tabletop items that make it worth driving from Madison to visit this shop. Dishes, linens, glassware, baskets, jewelry, wines, and elegant comestibles fill the space. As they note on their web site: "From rowdy conversation with friends to relaxed family interludes, the best times in life happen around your table." You know it's true; that's the allure of this kind of business!
Madison has lost a host of similar stores in the last few years — Fleurishes, Spirals, Gatherings to name a few favorites. Convivio has that same sense of personal style and attitude that characterizes the best shops. I have lots of reasons to return: French and Scandinavian linens, colorful pressed glassware, giftwrap with large scale patterns, stunning woven ribbon by the yard. Add two terrific newer destinations to stalwarts like the Jura Silverman Gallery, Nina's Department and Variety Store, nearby Global View and Taliesin, and it's clear that a quick return to Spring Green is a must!
Arcadia Books: 102 E. Jefferson St. 608-588-7638
Convivio: 122 N. Lexington St. 608-588-2351