Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport has a 43-year-old used bookstore. It’s a hub for bibliophiles who need more of the library and books. The bookstore serves as a great pass time for early loiterers at the airport. Of course, e-books are an option, but even Gen Z prefers printed books over e-books. So, that justifies the trend.
“Not something I see in many places.”
Christine Hatfield, one of the library’s visitors, describes the bookstore as an experience of visiting an old library. “I can only imagine the stories some of these books tell, besides the stories that are literally in the pages,” she added. The bookstore is named Renaissance Books, and it has been lasting strong for four decades.
Speaking more about her experience with Renaissance Books, Hartfield spoke about how she and her family took flights from Milwaukee airport with enough time to go through the books. She also added that the bookstore is spacious and has enough variety to explore. Hartfield considers the old bookstore concept pretty rare. According to her, airport bookstores can be ubiquitous bookstores; amidst that, this vintage concept gives a different vibe.
History of Renaissance Books
The combination of a used bookstore and an airport is something only a few people have heard of earlier. Many stay curious about how the vintage bookstore landed in a full-fledged airport. The history of Renaissance Books ranges back to the late 1950s when it was opened by George John, Robert John’s (the current owner of Renaissance Books) brother.
After school and the U.S. Army, Robert John also decided to help his brother with the bookstore. However, things lasted until the mid-1970s. Eventually, George John parted ways and opened his bookstore. Meanwhile, Robert John named the bookstore Renaissance Books and continued its operations on Plankinton Avenue (Downtown Milwaukee).
Years later, Robert John got a letter from the city’s Association of Commerce, where they were asked to bid on another space in an airport vacated by a bookstore. The customers supposedly demanded a new bookstore in the same place. Although he initially didn’t go for it, he later liked the idea and decided to bid on it. After rounds of bidding/rebidding, voting, and sending letters, the contract was finally offered to Renaissance Books for a year and one month. Since then, there have been multiple bids for the space, yet the vintage bookstore has stayed sturdy.
Robert John considers regular customers the main reason behind the bookstore’s success. “The positive feedback the airport gets from customers certainly has had a significant rationale for keeping me,” he said.
Have you been to Renaissance Books? If yes, how was your experience?