LaDeDa Books & Beans is nestled on a quiet residential street a few steps from Citizen’s Park in Manitowoc. The local bookstore features the kind of eye-catching storefront display one might expect to see downtown, and indeed, LaDeDa Books did first open in downtown Manitowoc. However, after seven years, owner/operator Bev Denor moved locations in order to join a smaller community. Her store has been operating at its present location on quiet New York Avenue for the past eight years.
“I love being in a neighborhood,” she says. “I think people miss the idea of a neighborhood, [being able] to walk to a place to get the things they need.” Denor says she has even had people suggest she carry bread, milk, and other necessities for the daily shopper.
But there’s no mistaking LaDeDa for a minimart. Inside, blue and orange walls stand in bright contrast to red and green paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Small toys decorate the bookshelves, and signs identifying each section by subject are uniquely decorated—feathered party masks flank the Mystery Section sign, a penguin angler in a Hawaiian shirt casts his pole from the top of the Humor Section sign.
The smell of fresh coffee is in the air, and Denor also offers chai, smoothies, and sodas. But her specialty—and self-professed passion—is books: best sellers to cookbooks to a large selection of children’s books to everything in between. Denor has even renovated the hallway in the back of the store in order to accommodate a growing used books section.
Denor says her passion for books can be traced back to her childhood days spent in the old Carnegie Library in Manitowoc. She grew up right around the corner from the library and spent many afternoons buried in the stacks. Denor recalls a fourth-grade teacher who left books on her desk to read, and a high-school teacher who provided reading suggestions to sate her voracious appetite for books. In college, Denor majored in English and Theatre before serving as an adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin–Manitowoc and then teaching high school English in Valders—where she was the one suggesting books to her students.
“I’ve been a book-pusher all my life,” she says with a laugh. Denor sees her store as an extension of her love for literature, and she connects with her customers through the experience of reading and sharing what’s important and interesting to her. What she loves most, though, is matching a customer with the right book: “Customers come in and say, ‘You fixed me up with a book a year ago. Let’s do it again.’ I love that.”
This personal connection with customers and the neighborhood feel of LaDeDa keeps readers coming back for more. Too, Denor supports a variety of community programs; currently, she is organizing a project to send books to the families affected by the Sandy Hook School shooting in Connecticut.
“In the Midwest when something happens, you take a casserole over to their house,” she says. “We can’t do that, but perhaps some comfort can be offered [to the families] by what we’re doing.”
Through all of these efforts, Denor has become a valued member of the neighborhood. She regularly receives invitations to graduation parties thrown by customers and shoppers often bring new pets by for a visit or flip open their wallets to show Denor pictures of their grandchildren.
“To them, I’m a neighbor,” she says, and for the people in Manitowoc, it’s hard to imagine New York Avenue without LaDeDa Books & Beans. Denor believes that the store is important to this community and hopes that when she’s no longer able to work, “someone will keep the store alive, or at least, something like it.”
But, she assures her friends and customers, “I’m not ready to end just yet.”
Visit LaDeDa Books & Beans at 1624 New York Avenue in Manitowoc or online at ladedabooks.com for hours, upcoming events, and book recommendations.