Independent Bookstores in the Finger Lakes

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

It’s been said that to be a good writer, it helps to be a good reader. It’s also been said that to be a good reader it helps to have a bottle of Finger Lakes wine nearby. OK I made up that part, even though it’s a theory worth testing. And, hell, it might even apply to being a good writer. Anyway…bookstores!

Although bookstores of all shapes and sizes are an important part of our economy and culture, those scrappy, independent booksellers are a particular species worth saving. Through smaller bookstores you can still find your current best-sellers, but where the indie bookstores shine is with attentive, knowledgeable service to help you uncover rare and hard-to-find titles, out of print collectibles, local authors, and books of special interest. Thankfully there are independent bookstores dotted across the entire Finger Lakes region. Set aside some time on your next visit to the Finger Lakes to check out these or many other bookstores in the area:

Old Scrolls Book Shop: This wife-and-husband-run independent bookshop, just east of Canandaigua Lake, is actually a converted 1850’s farmhouse that doubles as a home. As a result, the shop has a cozy cottage feel – the selection of 8,000 used and rare books are even displayed on bookcases built by the owners. It’s recommended to call ahead before visiting.
4578 State Route 247
Stanley, New York 14561

Ampersand Books (inside Writers & Books): Writers and Books is a great resource for writers of all levels, with workshops and readings happening throughout the year. Ampersand Books is WAB’s on-site indie bookstore where you’ll find books from both local and national authors, including those featured in and appearing at WAB seminars. Check their website for current shopping options.
740 University Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607

Book Warehouse (at the Waterloo Outlets): Outlet stores are usually the place to get name-brand markdowns. But in Waterloo there’s also a bookstore hidden among the clothing and fashion shops, which is a nice option for those needing a break from the clothing racks. Incidentally, they feature a decently sized children’s section, so if you’re travelling with kids this is a good place to load up on reading material or activity books.
655 NY-318
Waterloo, NY 13165

Books End: Syracuse’s oldest used bookstore is back open in the fall of 2020 after suffering through three months of COVID-induced shutdown. Books End is often voted a favorite of Syracusans and features current titles as well as used and collectible books. Want to sell? Contact them for an appointment first.
2443 James Street
Syracuse, NY 13206

Autumn Leaves Used Books: In a city that plays home to a college and a university, you’re sure to find plenty of books and Autumn Leaves Used Books is no exception. Tucked into downtown Ithaca’s Commons (link), this perennially hip store is also home to Angry Moms Records and outpost for the Ithaca League of Women’s Rollers, a local roller derby organization. Now that’s progressive!
115 E State St.
Ithaca, NY 14850

Have a favorite Finger Lakes bookstore? Let the people know – submit your comments down below!

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