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Mystery and romance

By Susen Foster

Over the years, I have written about many extraordinary destinations: exotic animal sanctuaries, exquisite floating villas, small town shopping meccas and tasting rooms at fine wineries.

But my personal favorite is at 8 East Main Street in the historic district of Ardmore, a booming I-35 town in south central Oklahoma about 30 miles from the Red River, where resides an unforgettable asylum of rest, revival, and reminiscence; a place where you will run into the likes of Stone Barrington, Kinsey Milhelm, Lee Iacocca, Billy Graham, or Josephine March.

Ashley's Bookstore is a magical hangout where worries of the day are left at the door and imagination is welcomed in. A wall to wall wonderland of all shapes and sizes of books to fit any mood from adventure to mystery, romance to real life--there are over 70,000 reasons to stay as long as you like then take some magic home with you.

Imagine being amongst thousands of books of every genre and every era, every day, and your job is to enjoy them. Tough work but someone has to do it and, at this emporium, Allen McKendrick is the Pagemaster. Being a frequent visitor to the store I am convinced that Allen is familiar with every book in there. He has opened my eyes to so many authors, often suggesting something new for me to explore.

He calls it the "browsery", his own word coined to describe the five rooms dedicated to paperback books and hardcovers creatively shelved and unceremoniously stacked on every surface. It is said that Ashley's has the best collection of romance and westerns. I can personally attest to their exhaustive selection of mysteries and they also have a very liberal credit system which makes it easy on the pocket.

The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is not unusual to see people shamelessly reading through a book. Allen and his wife April encourage patrons to take advantage of the cozy armchairs and the sun dappled patio while enjoying a few chapters.

To show you what kind of guy he is, Allen told me, "Please mention our neighbor next door at Antiques, Etc. Judi Elmore, has done so much for our business. Not only did she make us feel welcome, but from the very first day she has sent her customers to visit us. She's a special lady."

Across from Ashley's Bookstore is the historic Paradise Alley District. Though some buildings are still in the renovation stage, many are already home to art galleries, cafes, a tea room, a music studio, and loft apartments. The Amtrak depot is just down the street and the Heartland Flyer stops there twice a day between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.

I hope you have enjoyed this vicarious visit to my favorite hideaway. Feel free to call them at 580-223-READ. Visit www.ardmore.org for tourism information.

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