ah, the pleasaures of joseph beth booksellers: quiet music piped in to soothe as you browse a wide selection of books, magazines, gift items, music and movies, soft light perfectly reflecting off the blond wood shelves, fresh coffee, a pastry, or even a full meal available at the adjoining brontë bistro. Such a calm, adult refuge from the cold and noise outside.
but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. if you walk in the front door, take a right and keep on walking, you’ll hit joseph beth kids, one part playroom, one part library reading hour, and two parts diabolical retail masterpiece.
they’ve got a whole set of thomas the tank engine tracks and trains for kids to play with; each item also availbable for sale. they’ve got a melissa & doug kitchen console (the particular favorite of a certain member of this family) for pretend baking, or egg-frying, or pizza-making; yours for $199, not counting accessories. and they’ve got thrice-weekly story hours for kids, featuring (natch) readily available books from their shelves.
don’t get me wrong: i love the place: it’s a five-minute walk from home, and actually closer than our public library; it’s a chance to get your kid around other kids on those stir-crazy at-home days, and it somehow manages to be both kid-friendly and still have the same calming atmosphere that’s so inviting throughout the rest of the store. but it took a few visits before i recognized that i was regularly getting played by a two-year-old who would go in, amuse herself for thirty (precious peaceful blissful calm lovely and did i say peaceful?) minutes, then walk up and say, “daddy i want,” holding out train/ball/book/stuffed animal/you name it. and i’d be so grateful for those thirty (precious peaceful blissful calm lovely and did i say peaceful?) minutes that, before i knew what was happening, my wallet would open itself. nowadays, more often than not i say “maybe next time,” or just “no” and — in the face of protestations and crumpling faces and tears and collapses on the floor – tell myself it’s practice for later on when she and her brother are asking for more substantial purchases.
so go, and play, and enjoy … but be forewarned. you will be tested.