Friday, 21 December 2012 16:49

The Winter Issue: Fire(place) Escapes

Written by  Meaghan Minkus
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It's a bit of a bookworm-y stereotype to be curled up next to a fireplace with a mug of warm coffee, cocoa or tea and a good book during long, cold winter months. For all the snow, wind, sleet, cold and weather-related temper tantrums that West Michiganders put up with on a regular basis this time of year, local bibliophiles deserve the best dang fireplace there is for all of their bookish needs. If you're not quite lucky enough to have a personal library complete with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a roaring hearth in the comfort of your own home (drool), here's where you can find some warm, toasty goodness.

If you're actually kind of a pyrophobe:

Kalamazoo Public Library – Washington Square Branch, (269) 553-7970

Grand Rapids Public Library – Main Library, Yankee Clipper Branch, West Side Branch, (616) 988-5400

If everything about fireside reading appeals to you except, well, the fire itself, you may enjoy stretching out with your (covered) beverage at the Kalamazoo Public Library's Washington Square branch, which has one fireplace on each side of the building, or one of three Grand Rapids Public Library branches. Library patrons can enjoy all the perks of hot drinks and free books, but without the fire hazard involved in the whole tons-of-books-in-one-building thing.

If you just really want a fire in a library:

Kent District Library – Caledonia Township Branch, Wyoming Branch, (616) 784-2007

Never fear – Kent District Library has two branches with working, blazing fireplaces. In fact, the Wyoming branch even has two gas-log beauties. Each branch has vending machines that offer coffee and other beverages, but patrons are welcome to bring their own covered drinks and light snacks.

If you want to support a great local business:

Schuler Books & Music – All locations, (616) 942-2561

If you're thinking about making an investment in a book and taking it home forever, it may have to pass the curl-up-in-front-of-the-fireplace test. Luckily, each of Schuler Books & Music's locations boasts a fireplace and the in-house Chapbook Café for all of your coffee/latte/tea needs. "A lot of times, we find customers so relaxed and at home, they fall asleep. It's a bit different to have to wake [a customer] up because their snoring is too loud," said Emily Stavrou Schaefer, events coordinator. At the very least, Schuler's fireside reading areas are heartily customer-approved.

If you'd rather be in a bar:

Waldo's Campus Tavern, Kalamazoo, (269) 349-8674

Locals may know Waldo's for its proximity to Western's campus and its weeknight specials, but readers take note: Waldo's features a fireplace and reading area in the basement, as well as coffee if you ask nicely.

"We have couches down there right around that area," said Christopher Mumma, assistant manager. "We usually have busy, crazy nights Monday and Tuesday, but usually Saturdays aren't too crazy." Yes, that's right – you've just found your Saturday night reading haven. You're welcome.

If you're looking for a writer's retreat-style weekend:

Belvedere Inn, Saugatuck, (269) 857-5777

If you don't have the funds for a cozy mountain cabin tucked away in the Rockies or the Alps, look into hidden-away, small-town charm. The Belvedere Inn has a fireplace in each of its two dining rooms, as well as in each of its guest rooms. "In each of our third-floor rooms, there are dormer-style window seat areas and corner fireplaces, which creates a wonderful reading nook," said Shaun Glynn, owner and chef. "Rooms on our other floors feature fireplaces with couches or fireside chairs." Glynn mentions that the Belvedere is offering Bed and Breakfast dinner package weekends through May, in which two guests having a two-night stay earn a $100 dining certificate toward a four-course meal for two. To curl up to a fireplace with a good book and then wander downstairs to dine in style would be a lovely way to spend a few winter evenings when the Michigan weather outside is frightful.

If you're in a chai tea and tunes kind of mood:

5211 Cherry Ave Ste 170, Hudsonville, (616) 669-9917

Mocha-N-Music may look unassuming from the outside, but the inside is surprisingly spacious, works well as a music venue and even has a gas fireplace with ample cozy couch space. In addition to steamers, lattes, mochas and other coffee shop fare, Mocha-N-Music has plenty of delicious breakfast and lunch options on its menu. If you like to stay late after you get your reading done and hear some great local music, you're in luck – this coffee joint's calendar is almost always booked.

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