From the outside, you might mistake it for just another big red Nebraska barn on the outskirts of a small town.
But The Sisters Grimm Bookstore and Coffee Shop, inside a barn that once sheltered Tennessee Walking horses, is unlike any barn-- or indeed any bookstore or coffee shop-- I’ve ever visited. I wish it had been here when I was living just 50 miles away in Cheyenne, Wyoming and desperate for a hideaway like this.
Inspired by her senior college thesis on the fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, Jamie Carpenter chose the store’s name when she convinced her sister Jessica to join her in the business-- but there’s nothing grim about it.
Order an espresso coffee, tea, or choose from other drinks freshly made in the compact kitchen. Select a pastry made by the owner’s mother and other neighborhood cooks and settle onto the comfy couch. Depending on the day, you might be able to visit with owner Jamie, join a meeting of a community group in progress or just pick up a book and read.
On Saturday, April 27, I was privileged to do a public reading and conduct a writing workshop in one of Sisters Grimm’s cozy nooks. Everyone nibbled on home baked treats while they listened to me read from Dirt Songs, 50 of my poems published with 50 of those from Nebraska’s Twyla Hansen. Later, several of the audience members were happy to read what they had written during our mini-workshop.
With the help of her parents, Tim and Deb Nolting, and her sister Jess with husband Juan Rocha, Jamie mucked out the stalls and scrubbed the walls with bleach. Tim and Juan built bookshelves by the dozen and created a handy kitchen and modern bathroom with a rustic atmosphere. Tim and Juan are now converting the barn’s upper floor into a spacious and light-filled apartment, using recycled materials for floor, ceilings and other built-ins. A massive stack of books awaits distribution to the proper shelves downstairs.
The store specializes in used books and each stall holds a specialty: mysteries (I left with a dozen), westerns, religious, children’s and regional (Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Kansas and Montana), as well as history, art, textbooks and general nonfiction. New books include titles from Storey Publishing (www.storey.com) on gardening, crafts and farm and ranch life, as well as selections from local and regional authors.
Besides the books, the store is filled with antiques, photographs, paintings and greeting cards and many of these delights are for sale. I bought some delicious goat gouda made by Victory Hill Farm (www.VHFarm.com). The store also stocks sharp cheese from Coturnix Creamery, which uses milk from the Irish Cream Sheep Dairy in Bushnell (www.IrishCreamSheepDairy.com). I meant to buy scented soaps likewise made locally of goat milk by Double L. Country Store (www.doublelcountrystore.com). Quilts and ancient farm machinery are part of the decor.
Everywhere are personal touches that make the place feel like a particularly welcoming home: the new burlap bags covering the couch. The gigantic cups in which coffee is served. Photographs of local sights. Greeting cards lying on shelves where the browser sees their individuality rather than a rack of sameness. Around the top of the kitchen wall appears the same printed alphabet from which I studied printing in the Hermosa grade school. Pick up a book, rock, read, sip, while the afternoon away.
Sound like a reader’s idea of heaven? There’s more: the food: besides the espresso and other drinks, Jamie serves pastries baked by her and her sister, their mother Deb and a neighbor. And she’s available to cater lunches for groups reserving the barn for special events.
If you’re driving I-80 across the nation’s midsection, plan a stop at the southwest corner of Nebraska; Bushnell is just 12 miles west of Kimball. Dive off the convenient interstate exit, drive three miles north to Bushnell, cross the railroad tracks and drive three or four blocks to the first stop sign, where you’ll see a Sisters Grimm billboard. Turn left and you’ll see the barn and its spacious parking lot.
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For more information:
The Sisters Grimm
1598 RD 34 N
(Corner of Maple & D Streets)
Bushnell NE 69128
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