You know you've become more than just a bookstore when one of your employees holds her wedding in your walls. And by that measure, The Ivy has become a member of the North Baltimore family.
Tucked in the Lake Falls Village Shopping Center on Falls Road, The Ivy is well-known for its store recommendations, many of which stem from their clients own suggestions.
"It's a combination of our selections that we think are really worthwhile, and the customers' favorites, the ones that they're buying the most," owner Darielle Linehan explains.
"It's easy to distinguish them, because they're not the more commercial books, many of them are older books that either have been out of print for a while -- and therefore have been resurrected and reprinted -- or they're just ones that we've kind of discovered, and our customers sometimes lead us to them."
"We're known for our in-store recommendations. We really try and find interesting things," says The Ivy's Greg Szczeszek.
And that's just one of the thoughtful touches you'll notice when you walk into this thriving independent bookstore.
A little background
"We opened about 6 1/2 years ago, in a smaller location that was just two doors down. [We've always been] right here. It's a great location," Linehan says. The Ivy soon outgrew the smaller place by paying close attention to what their customers wanted, and providing it. For instance, "we didn't think the children's section would be as big a part of our store as it has been," she says.
Children's music is also a big seller, including opera recordings for kids and Random House's Rabbit Ears series, featuring celebrity voice talents. "We also sell a lot of historical fiction for kids," she adds. For the adults, the cooking and religion sections have expanded, while political tomes have been kept in check. "Our customers are more interested in the war," Linehan says.
While The Ivy doesn't see a lot of out-of-towners, they do enjoy a loyal customer base from the surrounding neighborhoods. "We have a lot of steady customers that we've grown to know over the years, which is great because we can kind of predict what they're going to like and give them a call when something comes in," she says. "We're able to recommend things we know that they like."
And their family atmosphere keeps more than the clients coming in. Linehan often sees her younger employees return in the summers, coming to take their place at the store not long after they say hi to mom and dad.
"We like to hire them in their senior year, and then they can work for us in the summer before their senior year," she says. "We have a young man living in Turkey now, and he comes back to visit his parents. And when he comes back, he comes into the store and works for a few days."
Besides the much-celebrated wedding of Shirley and Arthur Fergensen, The Ivy hosts signings and social events for the neighborhood. "The mothers of a particular school will come in for an hour when the store is closed, and we make recommendations and eat doughnuts and drink coffee," Linehan says.
"We do signings, usually on the weekends. And the preponderance of those are local authors. We love our local talent," she continues. In fact, nurturing area authors is a source of pride for the store.
"That's what we're all about. I think, above and beyond, we're a bookstore in the community and of the community. I think we're special in that regard. We can really focus on things that other bookstores maybe wouldn't notice. Things that are locally important can become nationally important," Szczeszek says.