Exploring a literary gem: Milwaukee's Renaissance Book Store endures through decades of change

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For some people reading is a hobby but for C Kay Hinchliffe it’s a lifestyle. She's been working at Renaissance Book Store for more than 40 years.

"I started working for Renaissance in January of 1980 when we were still in the big building downtown," said Hinchliffe. "You meet all sort of people in used books. Part of the fun for me is the joy I can give people because they come in and say I'm looking for a book and I say okay what's the name?"

Renaissance Books is one of the only standing independent bookstores left in Milwaukee, first opening back in the 1950s when its original location was downtown in a five-story building.

In 1979, it opened a location inside Mitchell International Airport becoming the first used bookstore inside an airport in the country.

"At the airport store you have people coming from all over. There are people who fly into Milwaukee just so they can come to the store," said Hinchliffe.

Hinchliffe spends the majority of her time working at the locating inside Southridge Mall in Greenfield. The store opened after the downtown location closed in 2018. She says the charm of the bookstore is still there even if the current location is much smaller.

"We like people. People come in and support us. People come in and say 'oh, I used to shop at your store downtown. Do you still have a location at the airport?' Yup," said Hinchliffe.

Working at Renaissance has become a family affair. Hinchliffe's husband Michael has worked at the store since the 1970's.

"Michael has worked for Renaissance since '76 and I started working at Renaissance because he worked at Renaissance," said Hinchliffe.

Since working at this location Hinchliffe estimates she's sold more than 25,000 books and says she will work at Renaissance for as long as possible.

"We're a dying a breed but we're small but fierce," said Hinchliffe.

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