I can’t imagine a world with no books in it. Unfortunately real, leather bound, yellow-paged books are becoming something of an anomaly. However, this fine city of ours can rest assured that books will always be incorporated, respected and loved in our wonderful downtown community where two amazing people have kept a little hometown bookshop running and, subsequently, added their own flair to the quaint little store that is nestled into a beautiful historic building on 6th street. Brandon and Marti Rison have poured their heart and soul into this little treasure. Oddfellow’s Fine Books and Collectables is in the same spot that Lloyd Zimmer had when he owned the store at 117 SW 6th Ave. Upon walking into the shop I was immediately swept away to my childhood when my grandmother would read Grover’s Resting Places to me at night. She would hold the book up to my nose for me to rest it on the page. I remember loving the smell of the paper. When I walked into Oddfellow’s it was the same sensation as I used to get when reading that book. I was greeted by tall wooden shelves packed to the brim with historic treasures, books that I wish I could’ve spent all night thumbing through. There are historic maps of Kansas and Topeka along the walls and paintings by Kansan painters as well.
Brandon: The Oddfellows are a fraternal order and this was their meeting hall on the third floor.
Marti: …and we are history nerds so…
Brandon: …so we felt it should be named Oddfellows. Second meaning, people who have this collecting bug aren’t normal. ( laughing) Most people who are interested in collecting … are just a little off center, and an odd fellow is someone we like to serve!
The Risons’ interest in collecting books was fueled by their interest in old coins. They had inherited some old coins and after doing some research, they became coin collectors. This new obsession was the gateway to postcards and stamps. They then began spending a lot of time in Lloyd Zimmer Books and Maps admiring his collection of historic books. Brandon began working part-time for Lloyd and when he wanted to close his shop, Brandon thought it was such a waste to completely close it down. So, he and his wife took it over, adding fiction, non-fiction, comic books, children’s books, and books about Kansas and Topeka history.
The Risons’ love for books stems from the same place: a love for knowledge. Brandon says, “If I get interested in something, I research it, I read as much as I can on it and because of that I’ve always been a fan of learning, of books, of any kind of information. I really enjoy the twentieth century authors: Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce. I just really love to read.”
Marti said this is something they share as a couple. “When we find a subject we enjoy, we embrace it. Just like the books, the coins, a lot of what is here is from our personal collection. When you get into a subject you just want to get into it as much as you can.”
When it comes to their opinion of great literature though, their opinions vary. According to Marti, “What is kind of fun about us is that we both go out hunting for treasures for the store and we both have different ideas about what the store should have. I tend to go for the more light-hearted artistic books. I love children’s books… I love the beauty of them and the message they give, too. If I could throw in a favorite, I would say ‘The Paperback Princess’ is a fantastic book.”
Brandon enjoys twentieth century authors including Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Joyce, while paying respects to Cervantes for the first novel and to Capote for the “true story” genre.
For people who so love the written word and are now dealing in the currency of paper bound books, the question remains: In this era of digital media, will the printed word become known more for its historical value ( i.e. out of print classics) rather than simply a medium for expressing ideas?
Brandon states, “Yes. In my opinion, we’re very near the end of the big box bookstore era. Barnes and Noble, Borders all of those have hinted that they are going to throw in the towel and just go digital. We have already seen the printing of books plummet. Now that’s a great thing [for] those of us that love and collect books… we will have all kinds of wonderful collectables to find in the future.” He continues, “Collecting is a hunt; a hobby. Stores like this fulfill a need in those of us who love to collect.”
As long as the Risons are collecting books, among other treasures, we are assured that the bound paper version of your favorite classic, or a new favorite will be waiting for you on a shelf at Oddfellow’s.
[ Article + photograph by Jessica Mathies | July 2013 ]