Kayleen Rohrer opened InkLink Books on the East Troy Village Square in July, making a decades-old dream come true. (Tracy Ouellette photo)

East Troy bookstore draws customers from far and wide

By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

For avid readers – those who have been surrounded by books since their first word – there’s something special about a bookstore. It’s more than just a place to pick up the latest novel or biography – it’s a destination.

And while the national chain brick-and-mortar bookstores might have large selections to peruse and purchase, it’s the small, independent bookstores that can be truly magical for literature lovers.

InkLink Books has an old-world feel to its décor and is at home on the historic East Troy Village Square is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. (Tracy Ouellette photo)

Tucked away in a small storefront on the East Troy Village Square is one of those bookstores. InkLink Books opened in July and for the owner, Kayleen Rohrer, it was a dream come true.

“I’ve always wanted to open a bookstore. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time. I’ve been keeping lists of books I wanted to sell for ages,” she said.

“Like for about 20 years,” her husband James Rohrer added.

The quaint shop reflects Kayleen’s passion for literature and her personality with it’s warm, welcoming appeal and a touch of whimsy.

“I had a vision of a store that would be like walking back in time,” she said. “I wanted it to look like an old, Parisian bookshop.”

She had the bookshelves custom-crafted by a local woodworker, Dave August.

“He did a phenomenal job,” she said. “I wanted an old-fashioned look and he knew exactly what I needed.”

Murals fill the walls

Another area artisan also helped take Kayleen’s vision from the idea stage to reality. Stacey Williams Ng, of Mequon, painted the four murals on the walls of the bookstore.

“I had this vision of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom,” Kayleen said. “I knew I wanted a mural on the ceiling and because I couldn’t get Athena out of my head, I knew it had to be her. So, I had Stacey out here to look at the space and she expanded on the idea, offering to do four murals of other Goddesses of Wisdom from different areas of the world.”

The four goddesses are Athena, who is on the ceiling; Saga, the Norse goddess who reclines atop the bookcases on the mezzanine level; Seshat, the Egyptian goddess; and Saraswati, the Hindu goddess.

Kayleen said she couldn’t be happier with how the store turned out and has been humbled by all the support she’s received from the community since the doors opened.

“It’s been absolutely amazing,” she said. “And it’s not just people from East Troy who come here, it’s people from all over.”

A ‘gem’ for the area

In fact, a gentleman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, visited the store Sept. 28. Bob Manson came to East Troy for the purpose of checking out InkLink as part of his mission to support local, independent bookstores across the nation.

Manson has visited nearly 300 independent bookstores in the last three years.

“I’ve covered just about every state,” he said. “And a few in Canada and Mexico, too.”

Manson said his bookstore adventure began when he read “My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop” and he decided to visit all of the bookstores profiled. He has since expanded his travels and has blog where people can read about his bookstore discoveries, theindiebobspot.blogspot.com.

“I find places like this (InkLink) and I just am in awe,” Manson said. “I hope the people of East Troy appreciate what a gem this is. So many towns have nothing.”

Manson said one of the things he’s discovered in his bookstore tour is that there are actually more independent bookstores opening in the country than are closing.

“Don’t believe the occasional national article you read about bookstores closing everywhere,” he said. “Yes, some are, but many more are opening, which is so exciting. Shopping local is so important.”

That is one concept the Rohrers also hold close to their hearts.

“There is a value added feature to a store like this,” Kayleen said. “We’re more than just a shop, we’re part of the community.”

“Even some people who don’t buy a book have come in to tell us what a great thing this is for the community,” James added. “It’s drawing attention to East Troy and what we have here. It’s what we need.”

Downtown renewal

The Rohrers and their family have been instrumental in the revitalization of the East Troy Village Square for many years. They have purchased and restored, or are in the process of restoring, several of the old buildings on the square, including the popular coffee shop/café, 2894 On Main, which will host InkLink’s next Read and Feed book dinner on Nov. 8. The book will be “A Gentleman From Moscow,” by Amor Towles. Registration for the dinner is available at the bookstore.

James said he has a passion for restoring the buildings, which are more than 150 years old, and the history of East Troy, which has been demonstrated repeatedly as building after building has been restored, or, in one case, rebuilt in the same design with the same footprint.

The coffee shop, which is next to the bookstore, was the first step for the Rohrer family and has become an anchor for further development on the Village Square, starting with InkLink, because what goes better with a good cup of coffee or tea than a good book?

      InkLink Books is at 2890 Main St., East Troy. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (262) 642-9607, or find it on Facebook.


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