Best Book Store (Independent)

Pudd'nhead Books

People pay a lot of lip service to how much they love their local businesses, especially their book stores, and how important it is to support them. But when the going gets tough, when the book store really needs the customers, how often do the customers pull through? St. Louis book-buyers are a loyal lot, it turns out. Last year when Subterranean Books was in danger of closing, they flocked back to the store and bought. And when Pudd'nhead Books was moving from its old location in Webster Groves' Old Orchard Shopping Center to a new storefront on Big Bend Boulevard, they showed up early on a hot Saturday morning to form a 600-foot-long human chain to pass books hand over hand from the old store to the new. A grand gesture, sure, but then many of them stayed behind to work: assembling shelves, sorting books, even cleaning. Pudd'nhead regulars, known among themselves as Puddies, are loyal. And with good reason. If owner Nikki Furrer and her staff haven't read everything on the shelves, at least they've made a very, very good effort, and they're never at a loss to tell their customers what they should read next. There are comfortable couches for full-size readers and a miniature chaise lounge for smaller ones. And there is Henry, the poodle-cocker-spaniel mix, who is (with apologies to Left Bank's Spike the cat) the friendliest bookstore animal in all of St. Louis. Readers don't just want to shop at Pudd'nhead. They want to live there.

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