Second Story Books

Bohemian Bookshop

By Blake Rong

2nd Story Sign

A small wooden sign hanging above a Spanish restaurant is the only clue of the aptly-named Second Story Books, tucked away in the 500 block of Westcott Street between a laundromat and a florist. Walk up the dark staircase to the upper floor, past the flyers advertising poetry readings and acoustic brunches, and you've just stumbled into a cozy hideout where you'll inevitably whittle away hours of time without even realizing it.

For a bookstore barely bigger than the men's bathroom at Barnes & Noble, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the reading material at this independent bookstore is far more eclectic. The shelves offer autobiographies, poetry collections, and works ranging from Kerouac and Burrows to Chinua Achebe. There's a wide selection of travel books for planning your escape out of Syracuse underneath neon-green and yellow walls decked out with photographs and paintings. Most people sit quietly on high chairs typing furiously on their MacBooks. Others sink into puffy, comfortable sofas, flipping through The Complete Works of Alan Ginsberg, enjoying the birds eye view of Westcott. It's the sort of hangout where future great novelists are born.

Much of the bookstore's popularity is owed to the hand-baked pastries and desserts from the kitchen where owner Alexis Harwood works her magic. "When I opened in October 2006, it started just as a small bookstore," said Harwood, who expanded it over the years to offer hand-pressed coffee, tea, and cappuccinos.

Independent bookstores are a dying breed; they are frequently swallowed up by the vast selection and unyielding expansion of big-box stores like Borders and Waldenbooks. But does anybody think the bohemian corner of Westcott would accept anything so corporate? You can always buy your books online, but what's the fun in that? The thrill of discovering something new is a rare treat for those who are looking for hard-to-find books and a decent cup of coffee.

Second Story Books 550 Westcott St. 315.299.6021