Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II from La Crosse: The impressive Pearl Street Books March 23, 2017

The tiled entry to Pearl Street Books reveals its history as the home of Arenz Shoe Company, founded in La Crosse and once housed at 323 – 327 Pearl Street. The La Crosse shoe store once boasted eight stores in Wisconsin and Iowa. Today only one, a fifth generation family-owned Arenz Shoes, remains open in nearby Sparta, Wisconsin. 


FIRST I NOTICED the sprawling oak and the organic shoe store message of Quality to the Roots embedded in the entry way tile.



Then I glanced to the window display and the heart shaped note of appreciation purposely placed among earthy books.



Both drew me inside Pearl Street Books as if I really need anything to get me inside a bookstore. I don’t.


An overview of the bookstore taken from the second floor and looking toward the front.


Ladders slide along the built-in towering shelves allowing access to the books.


Chairs scattered between shelves invite shoppers to sit and peruse books.


But I’ve never been in a book shop like Pearl Street Books in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin. I walked inside and then just stood there for a minute taking in the scene before me.


The wood floor lends a signature vintage look to Pearl Street Books.


A Minnesota mom snapped a photo of her daughter and I asked to do likewise. Shortly thereafter the daughter climbed much higher and was kindly asked to come down for safety reasons.


This inviting section houses kids’ books, new and used.


From the worn wood floor that speaks of age and history to the ladders that slide along side shelves packed with books to the massive quantity of books, this place impresses. The shopkeeper working the day I visited said 55,000 volumes fill this store. Now I don’t know how that compares to your average mass market book retailer. But for an indie bookstore, I’d guess that’s a significant number beyond the norm.


Just another overview from upstairs.


This beautiful stairway leads to the upper floors, including a lounge space on the second floor for book groups or just a spot to hang out.


You could spend hours here…


Pearl Street Books, on its Facebook page, bills itself as a specialty used, new, collectible and antique bookstore that “can procure almost anything.”


My husband purchased this updated adult version of the Dick and Jane books.



Pearl Street Books offers some additional merchandise such as these bumper stickers.


Based on the extensive inventory, I believe that statement. And, yes, I bought a book and so did my husband.

TELL ME: Have you ever visited Pearl Street Books or a similar bookstore?

FYI: Please check back for more stories as I continue my series from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Click here to read my first story.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


32 Responses to “Part II from La Crosse: The impressive Pearl Street Books”

  1. Thank you for sharing! I could move right in! The Dick and Jane book-that’s a hoot

  2. Marneymae Says:

    WOw! What a treasure, this Pearl Street bookstore. Thanks for sharing the goodness.

  3. What a COOL bookstore – I could spend some time there trolling the aisles! Powell’s in Portland, Oregon is massive – multiple floors of books and more books. Haslam’s here in St. Pete is a pretty good size too. I always like to look at the local section for area history, authors, etc. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. treadlemusic Says:

    I/we very rarely venture into downtown (anywhere!!) these days, although the Pearl Street ice cream shop is a draw for DH!!! I so luv that the original flooring, etc, was preserved……a value that transcends time for sure!!

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    These book stores are a national treasure.

  6. Don Says:

    What a great looking book store, I could spend hours there! Real books certainly are much better than using a Kindle or Nook, at least in my opinion!

  7. Valerie Says:

    I love book stores too. This one looks very intriguing!

  8. Jackie Says:

    What a great find Audrey, although I had to scroll back up and check the name on the store front sign as it looks more like a full fledged Library than any “book store” I’ve ever seen. What a fun place to spend a few hours!

  9. Sue Ready Says:

    Oh my what an inviting bookstore packed with you say 55, 550 some volumes!. Just to keep track of inventory and find something-wow how were the prices?
    Reminds me of Powells in Portland.

  10. Beth Ann Says:

    SHHHHHH! You know this is my type of place. Just like Jena—I would be right there moving in! Great shots of a great place. Now I feel like I need to head there……

  11. Littlesundog Says:

    What a find!! I can just hear those old wood floors creaking as I shuffle along, checking out the books. I cannot say we have anything like this at all in these parts. What a treasure of a store.

  12. Gunny Says:

    Lovely, Absolutely Lovely! I could spend a whole week there! I have a hard time passing up a book store! Spent about 4 hours just today looking around a B&K bookstore. Love the old world charm of this place that you photographed. Would Love to visit it myself!

  13. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing. It looks like you could spend days wandering around in there. That beats Barns n Noble all the way. I love the wood floors

  14. What a truly amazing book store, it has its own kind of magic. I could get lost in there for hours. Thank you for sharing.

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