An Open Book
Words & Music Bookstore in Wheeling keeps the pages turning.
Words & Music feels like home. At first glance, the bookstore at Stratford Springs in Wheeling looks more like a personal library than a store. Handcrafted shelves line the walls, and—if it’s chilly outside—a cozy fire invites guests to sit and relish being in a locally owned bookstore.
Owner Alan Lestini says the intimacy of his shop is what makes it special. Now more than ever, he says it’s important for communities to support places like Words & Music, not only because they serve a role economically, but because they are vital to a community’s identity. “With all of the things that are happening with technology, we still have a place for bookstores,” he says. “Say you have friends in town—where are you going to take them? To your computer room? You still need a place to go.”
Donna Simpson, a history professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, is one of Words & Music's most loyal patrons. “Wheeling historically was home to many small and large businesses, most of them locally owned and run. Words & Music is showing how local, small businesses can succeed and adjust to changes.”
Twenty-one years ago, when Alan and his wife were taking out-of-town friends to eat at Stratford Springs, he saw an empty shop for rent near the restaurant when he realized his dream of owning a local bookstore could come true. Six years later, as the proprietor of a successful business, he says his only mistake had been choosing a location too small to keep up with the demands, so he moved to a slightly larger location on a hill in Stratford Springs. Alan says an even larger space could have worked, but it was important to him to maintain a small shop. “When you’re at a place this size as opposed to a chain, people tell me that they can actually ‘see’ the books,” he says.
Many of the titles available at Words & Music are ordered at the request of the customers themselves. Donna, who shops the shelves up to several times a week, says Alan knows customers’ preferences. “He’s on the lookout for books and music he knows we will like. And he will order anything. That personal touch is what makes Words & Music stand out,” she says.
Shoppers can expect more than the run-of-the-mill collection of contemporary CDs at this store, too. A collector of vintage music himself, Alan works to maintain a modest collection of used LPs. Donna says she relies on Alan to meet her “eclectic taste” for medieval and Renaissance music. She knows she could turn to the Internet for rare finds, but she says it’s unsatisfying to shop anywhere other than Words & Music.
While customers can also expect to find traditional bestsellers and music on the store’s shelves, Alan goes out of his way to promote the work of local authors, artists, and musicians. “It’s important for a community to have a bookstore,” he says. “It’s important for a community to have separate, individual shops that don’t have that homogenous look like every other place.”
Words & Music, 4 Hyde Park Drive, Wheeling, WV 26003; 304.232.6539; whgwordsandmusic.webs.com