Ed Spot #10/ Mandolin Books & Coffee Company

Highlands staple proves books and coffee go together as natural as laptops and deep thinkers!


COFFEE shop & book store hybrids are a rare breed in this city, unless you clump those Chapters-Starbucks mergers into the same category. That's what makes Mandolin Books & Coffee Company (see, it's right in the title) so special.

I first heard about this place when I Googled "Edmonton coffee shops," but never made it down to the Highlands area secondhand book shop that happens to also sell coffee, teas, and applicable snackage. It came to my attention again late last year when an acquaintance of mine, artist Darlene Adams, was showcasing her oil paintings at the Mandolin.

Finally, in the start of this new year, I bit the bullet (though I'm not entirely sure what that term means) and drove to the other side of town, found a parking stall in the back of the Mandolin--which is two doors down from La Bohème Restaurant/B&B--and headed inside.

Drum roll please...

Or not, whatever...

There was nothing spectacular about this place when walking through the front doors (including an old-fashioned screen door) of the Mandolin, but perhaps that's what's appealing about the cluttered little shop, which has been selling used books and not-bad coffee since 2003.

Music played on the speakers as I strutted the hardwood floors of the Mandolin. Mostly hard cover books crammed the shelves, which themselves have crammed almost every available wall, coating the store with books priced slightly above my acceptable standards. That's just fancy talk for cheapskate. There were even books resting upon the snack display and countertop, in arm's reach of almost every square inch of the store.

There were three wooden tables situated in the only accessible spaces of the Mandolin, and enough seating for about a dozen people at one time. At the very back of the store is a cosy reading room where children can busy themselves with toys and suitable reading material.

I spent $1.75 on the self-serve coffee and then took a seat in the middle of the main area, and looked up at the chalkboard menus of specialty coffees, pastries and desserts, offering pies, cookies, cheesecake, turnovers, tarts, and whatever Yankee buns are.

"There is no mystery left in shopping for books at big chain stores. That's why shops like Mandolin Books are such a treasure trove."

Looking around the room I spotted for-sale artwork on the walls, local ads and free periodicals at the front doors, a large fridge for bottled drinks, and a pair of arm chairs resting against the main window, where patrons could sit & read from the Mandolin's "wide selection of quality used books."

Even the bathroom managed to squeeze in some character of its own, doubling as a storage areas and even a gallery! Okay, so there was just a solitary painting in the can, but still.

But the Mandolin is even more than just a place to buy books and drink coffee. Yep, it's a local haven for celebrating and promoting city artists and musicians, too. Every month the Mandolin will exhibit the work of a different local artist (currently, painter/ blogger/ barista Justina Smith*), and it also hosts live music and author readings. In addition, it offers free WIFI connections in case you want to bring your laptop and work on that screenplay about a young, sexy agent who brings down the government.... Or you can check your Facebook!

"Chapters has everything," said customer Jennifer. "There is no mystery left in shopping for books at big chain stores. That's why shops like Mandolin Books are such a treasure trove. I was delighted to see there was a tiny cafè, free Internet service and several visitors chatting politics with the owner. How refreshing!"

Jennifer continued, boasting over the "very eclectic" selection of books on "everything from film theory and feminism to poetry and historical fiction." Okay, now she sounds like she works there. "I noticed a box of sheet music for piano and guitar and there was a special section of vintage books." Wait, does she work there?!

But she's right! There's a great assortment of literature to choose from at the Mandolin, titles you'd unlikely find at a Chapters or even at Audreys downtown. So go see it for yourself, get a coffee and a Yankee bun, stay for some live entertainment, check out their "eclectic" inventory, and leave with some local artwork, all in one afternoon!

The Mandolin operates seven days a week, until 10:00 each evening. You can also sell your books there, or get credit for other titles in the store. The video below was shot last year, featuring local musician Mike Love performing "How Do You Manage?"

*'I Heart' will be profiling Justina Smith in an upcoming feature of 'Local Art Showcase'!

The Rundown:
6419-112 Ave.
Phone: 780-479-4050
Hours: 8AM-10PM (Mon-Fri)/ 9AM-10PM (Sat-Sun)


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