An Unexpected Discovery

The Uwchlan Trail appears to peter out in a subdivision, but if riders continue follow the asphalt path beyond the Pennypacker Country Club, they will encounter a rather Potemkin-looking commercial development, called “Eagleview Town Center”.  It’s pretty grim — rather vacant and uninspired, in spite of liberal use of brick-like building materials, but look what is hiding down the drive:

It’s a little gem of a bookstore!  New books and used; attractive displays, coffee and pastry — and library ladders

beautifully arranged, inviting seating sections

and lots of light

The children’s nook features over-sized cushions on the floor

and this tempting display (the sign says “Please Play With These”:

Oh, and there’s a rare book room, presented with great economy, but perfectly outfitted with two club chairs, and a chess board, set up

It’s like a dream library . . . with refreshments, and all sorts of engaging tidbits scattered here and there.  Why not start at the Struble Trail, pick up the Uwchlan Trail and stop for a spot of refreshment and book shopping before heading back?

The book selection looks excellent; this is not your local chain book store — not by a long shot!  Wellington Square Books is the name (it’s technically in Exton, apparently); there’s lots of content on the website, and they’re apparently open on weekdays until 7 PM, making them an excellent destination for evening rides all through spring and summer.

It’s a beautiful little bookstore, but my second visit wasn’t a good one.  I stopped in mid-way through a recent ride, and asked the only visible employee, a young-ish woman,  if I could get a cup of coffee.  There were only two other customers in the store — a woman and a small child, who were in another section — and the employee had to leave her paperwork to help me.  She seemed distracted, and didn’t welcome me, either when I walked in the door, facing her,  or when I asked about coffee.

She seemed annoyed or confused when I asked for “half-caffe”; another employee materialized, and said something to her, apparently clarifying what I’d said; the employee got the coffee and gave the mug to me.  She’d forgotten that I’d asked for room for milk, though, and it was full nearly to the brim.  More signs of mild irritation when I asked her to pour off some coffee to leave room for milk.  She brought the mug back, and I had to ask for the milk, which is kept under the coffee bar.  More obvious annoyance from the employee.

I said, quite neutrally, “I’m sorry to inconvenience you”, hoping that she’d offer some kind of explanation for her disengagement.  You know, something along the lines of “Oh, I’m sorry.  I’m a little distracted today” with, you know, a mitigating smile.

“You’re not inconveniencing me” she replied, unconvincingly.  Then she walked away, and I had to call her back to ask the price of the coffee so that I could pay her.  No apology, no smile, just complete disinterest.

Five (six, if you count when she had to turn back to let me pay her)  opportunities to interact positively with a customer, and she failed them all.

Ironically, while all of this was going on, another customer entered the store, ordered a coffee, and began discussing, with the other employee, how difficult survival is for independent bookstores.

There are a couple of espresso machines at the coffee bar, but purists who order plain coffee will not be pleased that it comes from a vacuum pump in the back.  In spite of that, I liked the coffee:  it was strong and robust.

However,  I won’t be going back.  Not only did I not feel welcome, I felt entirely in the way.

There’s no good reason to break up a beautiful cycling trip ride with an experience like this.  Too bad; not only do I drink coffee, but I normally read three to four books a week, and I own an extensive personal library, all of which I — you got it — purchased.  Regulars may love this place, but newcomers like me, who hope to become regulars, may find the going less than congenial.  A small business, especially a bookstore, shouldn’t be a club where only the employees feel at home.

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