Casper Bookstore Withholds WiFi, Revels In Reading Instead
Here's an idea whose time has come and gone and is coming back: peace, quiet, coffee and reading.
Wind City Books, 152 S. Center St., offers thousands of books, nifty knick-knacks, fresh coffee, friendly staff -- and no WiFi for your computer.
"Within the first year of our existence we made a conscientious decision not to offer WiFi to encourage people to disengage," owner Vicki Burger said Tuesday.
Sure, you can bring your cell phone and computer into the store without fear of confiscation.
Yes, you can take a call, but be polite and don't have a one-sided conversation in front of customers.
No, you can't check your email or cruise Facebook because this store, Burger's store, wants you to forget about that for a while and instead read, think, and perhaps exchange an idea or two with the staff or other customers.
Books have two primary purposes: inform and educate; and offer relaxation and entertainment, she said.
Wind City Books, which opened nine years ago, had a sidewalk sandwich board partially as a tongue-in-cheek come-on to entice customers with a "no WiFi" message, she said.
One day, however, an out-of-town customer saw it and almost didn't come in because she wanted to check her email while drinking coffee, Burger said.
But she went in anyway. After a while, she went to the counter to buy five hardbacks and told Burger she had this revelation: "'I deserve some time to myself, and I want to thank you for giving me that permission to spend half an hour relaxing and enjoying books and having a cup of coffee.'"
After that, the message became a permanent fixture in the storefront window, which made room on the sandwich board for other messages including new arrivals, author visits and book signings.
The store has 10,000 titles on hand, which is a small fraction of what's available on its website.
Western-themed books and prominent Wyoming authors C.J. Box and Craig Johnson dominate some shelves.
But Burger has had to explain to publisher representatives on the East Coast that the city in the middle of the state in the middle of the Rocky Mountain region isn't stuck in the middle of a rural reading rut.
"People read very widely here in Wyoming," Burger said. "Wintertime, when it gets slow on the ranch, we get cowboys in here looking for philosophers. You can't pigeonhole the people of Wyoming."
Besides peace and philosophy, the independent bookstore offers another home-grown business with a personal touch, she said.
Amazon.com can offer books at or below cost -- as loss-leaders to entice people to buy bigger-ticket merchandise -- but it can't answer one-on-one questions, Burger said. "If you have questions, ask us."
She's encouraged by the growing interest, especially among Millenials, in local businesses such as hers that offer a personal touch, a connection with community, support for local charities, jobs and tax revenues.
"The more we support one another, the better off we are," Burger said.