Independently owned bookstores are like great-grandparents: You’re happy they’re still around, even if you’re not quite sure how they do it. And while we can’t speak on behalf of thriving senior citizens, we do know why the Ohio Book Store has managed to establish itself as a Cincinnati staple: Good books, great people, and exceptional bookbinding.
Yes, bookbinding—and book repair. Owned and operated by Jim Fallon and his two sons, Jim Jr. and Mike, the 74-year-old bookstore is home to around 325,000 new and used books and magazines and has specialized in the craft of bookbinding since the early 1980s. Although “bookbinder” sounds like it would’ve gone the way of the milkman and the travel agent by now, the Fallon family is busier than ever. (Click here for some DIY restoration tips).
“Right now we’re backed up several months with orders from all over the country. We’ve been fortunate to stay busy,” says the elder Jim Fallon.
Despite the fact that the store has four floors crammed floor-to-ceiling with books and magazines, it’s the basement—the entrance to which is located in the middle of the first floor—that caught our attention. Packed with centuries-old tomes and large, iron machines, it’s very tempting to describe it as a lair, but there simply aren’t enough steps, and it has fluorescent lighting. Still, this is where the magic happens.
It’s down here where the Fallons spend their days artfully restoring the bindings we’ve worn out and immersing themselves in the ways we’ve tried to keep our pages together. Whether it’s sheepskin, imitation leather, needle and thread, linen, or glue, each book brings a new story and a new challenge to the Fallons’ basement. Hence, there is no “one way” to bind a book. “It depends on the book. When it was made determines how it was originally bound, which determines how we’ll approach the rebinding process—that’s what makes it interesting,” Jim Jr. says.
The Ohio Book Store’s bindery knows few limitations. Its clients cross the country and range from individuals and collectors to libraries and museums. They send in family Bibles, photo albums, coin collecting books, more family Bibles, advertising pitches, and of course, nearly every type of book—in all states of disrepair and readiness for rebirth.
Sometimes, opening a book can change your life; other times, the binding breaks from sitting on a shelf far too long and it falls apart in your hands. Luckily, the Fallons can help you with both.
Ohio Book Store, 726 Main St., downtown, (513) 621-5142, ohiobookstore.net