Small Business Spotlight: Independent bookstore Book & Puppet Company fuses entertainment and social justice

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Book & Puppet Company offers a diverse book collection and daily puppet shows. (Photo courtesy of Discover Lehigh Valley)

Oliver Finlay

Book & Puppet Company is on a two-pronged mission to serve up both great stories and diverse points of view.

According to co-owner Andy Laties, the independent bookstore offers a “deep selection of children’s literature and a quirky selection for adults.”

Laties operates Book & Puppet with his wife Rebecca Migdal, the co-owner of the store. Laties has decades of experience running bookstores, and Migdal has extensive experience in performance art. Their combined expertise allows them to collaboratively run the bookstore with daily puppet shows.

While locals are most likely to know the store from the Yippee Skippy puppet shows for children that take place just outside the storefront every day, Book & Puppet also hosts shows geared towards adults, including a program called Dream Theater, where members of the audience write down their dreams for puppets to act out. 

Laties also explained that they host a show called Fractured Fables, where traditional stories are told as “crazy adaptations that subvert the traditional morals and add a feminist element or have political messages.”

The idea of infusing politics into performance is nothing new for Laties and Migdal who opened their store in 2017 after Northampton County went red in the 2016 presidential election and hope to “play a part in changing politics of the area.”

In keeping with its political ethos, Book & Puppet participated in Banned Books Week, which is organized by the American Library Association during the last week of September. This past week, Book & Puppet was one of many participating bookstores and libraries that promoted books considered controversial due to their discussion of sex, drugs, or the author’s political views. Among the books promoted by participating stores were the “Harry Potter” series, “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Hate U Give.”

Laties and Migdal hope to set examples, not just for the children they entertain, but for activists, entrepreneurs and regular people as well. For their fellow independent bookstore owners, the message is strategic. Laties’s most popular book, “Rebel Bookseller,” documents his experience running several independent bookstores and the strategies he used to beat the big businesses taking over the bookselling industry in 2005.

For everyone else, the lesson is empathy.

“We make a lot of effort to represent alternative viewpoints and diversity and LGBTQ [experiences],” Laties said.

Patrons can visit Book & Puppet Company downtown at 22 Centre Square.