From the start, three-year-old MainStreet BookEnds, the Warner, N.H.—based bookstore located in the boyhood farmhouse of Pillsbury Flour Mill founder Charles Pillsbury, has been a gathering place for the community. "Whatever the community is asking for, we try to provide," said co-owner Jim Mitchell. The 3,000-square-foot general store has a strong children's section and offers kids "a safe haven after school," he added. "There's a time period between when school gets out and parents get home, about 90 minutes to two hours, that can pose a problem. We encourage kids to come here."

To make it more comfortable for after-schoolers, MainStreet bought beanbag chairs and child-proofed the whole store. It even puts out cookies most afternoons. For those who want the after-school hours to be more productive—and for homeschoolers, who are numerous in this town of 2,500—MainStreet offers French and Spanish classes that begin when the elementary school lets out. There are also piano and saxophone lessons for kids and adults. These supplement other store activities, which include a weekly Friday-night events series, music concerts, yoga lessons and even some college-level classes.