The Best Street in Kalamazoo

With the sudden interest in everything vintage, it has become increasingly difficult to find what you want in the mall anymore. Tangible music has made great leaps and bounds, thrift shopping is not just cheap, but also trendy, and finding a place that sells coffee at a reasonable price is a task in itself.

But a small cluster of stores tucked away in Kalamazoo are reaching these rare demands at a reasonable price that you can actually afford. And these stores swiftly became my favorite place to go in Kalamazoo.

South of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, down S Westnedge Ave a ways, and then just past the Chenery Auditorium is the corner of West Vine Street.

Standing on that corner, the group of window stores don’t exactly look like the best place to be in Kalamazoo, but this is a learnable moment where you don’t judge the book by its cover. You park around back and follow the neon nature murals to our first stop, J-Bird Vintage.

This lovely little store has one of the best selections of vintage clothing, jewelry, and shoes at a price that won’t break the bank. Jane, the owner and operator of J-Bird Vintage, is an incredible kind and artistic person who you could talk to for hours about anything and everything. She has an impeccable taste for fashion that is clearly showcased throughout her store. Besides her fair pricing, I am grateful for the organized store set-up where you can easily shift through leather jackets, dresses, and shirts of all decades.

Once you leave the store, follow the brick building around the corner until you hit a store front that is littered in band posters. You’ve reached Satellite Records.

You walk through the front door and are immediately greeted with some obscure background music, and rows upon rows of vinyl records, cds, and shelves of cassette tapes. Warning: time does not exist in this store; you could spend hours thumbing through records and not even notice it. This store has collection full of new, old, obscure, and popular records for every music taste. Because of that, you can very rapidly spend more that your budget allows. So, the best (and cheapest) advice for this store is to go to the back wall and flip through their cheap and on-sale records; they’re typically in good condition and you can find albums for as low as a quarter.

Who knows how much time you’ve spent in the last two stores, and at this point you either want some good food or a big cup of coffee. Just walk outside and look to your right. On the second story of the next building is the Crow’s Nest, a snug restaurant that serves breakfast all day (a very important detail), and some of the best coffee I’ve found in Kalamazoo. Their staff is friendly and personable, and really add to the cozy atmosphere. They have an extensive breakfast menu (I personally love their Southwestern Omelet), and you could gorge yourself on their french toast.  

Then, our final destination (and possibly my favorite) is right next door – the Bicentennial Bookstore. I swear this bookstore is magical. End of sentence.

You walk in and you are completely consumed by books. This is another store on our route, where time is only an idea. The perfect definition of organized chaos. At the front of the store you can find rare leather bound books by Easton Press, Franklin Library, and The International Library among others. If you dare to venture further into the bookstore I hope you are graceful. Almost every patch of floor space is stolen by the stacks of books, and while it is a relatively small store, you can get lost in the allies and troves that create conglomerations around the tall standing bookshelf that are chalked full. Balance becomes a necessary skill if you plan to use a ladder to reach the top of the pile. There’s so many books that litter the room you’ll feel like you are on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive. If you look very closely, squint even, you’ll find that some of the shelves have actually been labeled, and it’s not as overwhelming as you once thought.

The prices for these rare books are incredible. The owner is an extremely talkative and friendly guy, who will mostly likely strike up a conversation about the latest newfangled things or pull up a cool Youtube video.

At this point in time, it’s probably nightfall. You walk back to your car, arms heavy with a menagerie of treasures and maybe you’re already plotting what you’ll come back for. The people that operate these extraordinary stores are great genuine people, who’ll most likely remember your name when you come back in.

Hopefully, this little strip of emporiums at the corner of W Vine and S Westnedge, will become one of your favorite destinations in Kalamazoo, just like it has become mine. 

Lainie Scott

Lainie Scott

This is my senior year at Gull Lake High school, and my second year apart of The Reflection staff.  This year I am the feature/entertainment editor, and I am looking forward to see where my writing can take me.

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