Howard’s End

Coco Chanel with our Howard's End mug -
Coco Chanel with our Howard’s End mug –

By Mary Anna Violi |@Mary Anna Violi

No, this is not the E. M. Forester’s Howard’s End.  This is the demise of an altogether different Howard: Howard’s Bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana.

Located on Fountain Square [“The Square”} in Bloomington, the store stood across from the Courthouse on bustling Kirkwood Avenue.  The bookstore first beckoned me as a freshman college student.  Having never lived away from home, I felt like an island amid a sea of thousands of IU students.  Walking through the grassy front of the Indiana Memorial Union, crossing Indiana Avenue next to Dunn Meadow, I would stroll along Kirkwood, passing the Von Lee Theater, making my way uptown, past the Indiana Theater, and the new Trojan Horse eatery and bar.

Howard’s Bookstore caught my eye immediately, for in the window were two black cats with glass-jeweled colors snoozing on a low bookshelf located near one of the store’s large windows.  During those lonely first weeks on the campus, I longed to cuddle up with my longhaired gray cat, Walter Mitty, on my dorm room bed.  Having grown up with cats and dogs, I sorely missed having Walter Mitty with me.

As I ventured inside Howard’s Bookstore, jingling bells announced my entrance.  The sleepy black cats deigned to open one green eye each, sized me up, surmised I was a cat lover, and then resumed their somnambulist state.  Thus began my rapture over Howard’s Bookstore.  Not only did the shop attract literary aficionados, the owner proved  friendly, helpful, and insightful.  Those Howard’s Bookstore folks could wax poetic non-stop over classic and contemporary authors.  This was the 1970’s:  There was no, no Internet. Instead, there were actual humans, not hardware, to actually converse with clientele.  IU professors placed myriad orders with this bookstore.  Students flocked to read and buy books, pet the sleek black cats, and partake of the ambiance.

Whenever I was on the campus, I would swing by Howard’s Bookstore.  As an IU student, my daughter has loved it too. However, I began to notice fewer bookshelves, and more aisle space from the crowded ones of my college years.  Several years ago I purchased a black mug with the shop’s logo – two black cats atop books against a white front piece.  Cats still graced the interior premises, as did now the owner’s Australian Shepherd, Merlin.

On Saturday morning, April 4, my daughter and I walked to Howard’s Bookstore after brunch at Farm.  As we neared Howard’s, something seemed amiss.  Large For Lease signs profaned the bookstore’s picture windows.  Two weeks ago, the game store proprietors next door informed us, Howard’s Bookstore had succumbed to the fate of many small independent bookstores nationwide.  Electronic books, the Internet, and monster bookstore chains had choked Howard’s Bookstore over a period of years.

The end of an era, the now defunct Howard's Bookstore -
The end of an era, the now defunct Howard’s Bookstore –

It felt like the day the music died.

Ciao for now.


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