HANCOCK - What's longer-lasting than a fruitcake, cheaper than a flat screen and more fun than a partridge in a pear tree?
"A book," Alana Nolan replied cheerfully, reciting the quote she found on Indie Bound's Web site. "Isn't that a neat way of putting it?"
Nolan is the manager of North Wind Books, a unique little book store situated next to the Finnish American Heritage Center on Quincy Street in Hancock. Owned and operated by Finlandia University, North Wind Books carries a collection of items from hard-to-find books and university apparel, to gifts for the home, Finnish design, music and more.
"A lot of people don't know that we're connected to the university and that we're also an independent book store," Nolan said. "People may not realize the variety that we have in this small space."
The many book shelves in North Wind Books feature a range of selections including adult fiction, field guides, local authors, local history, books from Finland and Finnish-American books. Text books and school supplies can be found in the room at the back of the store. For young readers, North Wind Books created an entire room dedicated to children's books. There's even a brown, squishy chair for comfortable book browsing.
"We have picture books, chapter books, board books, and we also have some Finnish children books," Nolan said as she entered the room. "It's a fun, cozy area for kids to come in and choose a book."
Because they carry a large collection of Finnish gifts and literature, Nolan said the book store and the Finnish American Heritage Center complement each other well.
In the design room, customers will find a unique collection of Finnish home decor including plates and bowls by HS Design and place mats, carpets and table runners by Hanna Korvela.
Customers will also find official Finlandia apparel, coffee mugs, stickers, hockey sticks, and a small selection of children's clothing.
In the local author section, Nolan said books by Lauri Anderson are a popular read.
"He's a popular one for us," she said. "Topics about mining and stories from the U.P. are also popular."
If there's a particular book a customer can't find in the store, North Wind Books will do special orders. Other special offerings include in-store book signings throughout the year.
"Most are local authors but we do get some regional authors," Nolan said. "For instance, authors from Minnesota, Wisconsin and some from downstate."
North Wind Books accommodates a number of local reading groups as well, Nolan said, by making sure the store has their books available.
"We make sure we have them on display so that they can be easily found," she said.
Barbara Kendall, of Hancock, said she likes shopping at North Wind Books because that's where she finds the latest books by local authors, national best sellers and wonderful children's books.
"Alana takes a lot of time to help me select gifts, too. She's very knowledgeable and I really appreciate that," Kendall said. "If I'm looking for a book that's not there, Alana will order it for me."
Nolan said every winter they have a catalog for holiday giving. Customers can select books from the catalog put out by the Midwest Booksellers Association and North Wind Books will handle the ordering.
"There's a good selection of different types of books for people to think about for holiday gifts," Nolan said.
In January, North Wind Books is going to launch its new children's club called the CUB Club.
"It stands for children's unique books," Nolan said. "Children can come in, sign up and receive a card that we'll keep here at the book store. After nine punches on the card, they get the tenth book free."
Nolan said they wanted to come up with a way to engage local children in reading.
"Reading is such an important part of learning," she said. "We want to help any way we can and persuade kids to love to read."
North Wind Books also carries traditional gift items like Finnish cemetery candles.
"On Christmas Eve and All Saints Day the Finnish light these candles in remembrance of those who have passed on," Nolan said. "We also have these ladles with a piece of metal in the shape of a horseshoe. On New Year's Day, you're supposed to melt the metal in the ladle and pour it into water. Whatever shape it makes is supposed to tell you your fortune for the year."
North Wind Books has grown quite a bit over the years. The business was originally owned by Patricia and Peter Van Pelt, who operated the store in Eagle Harbor until 1999 when it moved to Hancock.
"It was just this front section of the store," she said of its size when it first opened on Quincy Street. "Now we've expanded into five rooms. We've grown quite a bit."
North Wind Books is a member of a number of organizations including Indie Bound, the National Association of College Stores, the Great Lakes Booksellers Association and the Michigan Booksellers Association.
North Wind Books is located at 437 Quincy St. in Hancock. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 487-7217 or visit northwindbooks.com.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by North Wind Books of Hancock. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.