“I have no interest in retail; I have no interest in opening a bookstore,” said Ann Patchett, whose Parnassus bookstore opened Wednesday in Nashville. “I also have no interest in living in a city without a bookstore,” she continued.
Nashville, once called “the Athens of the South,” lost it’s last independent bookstore and its Borders, in what one local writer called, “a civic tragedy.” Cultural leaders held meetings in the public library, and hatched such ideas as a co-op bookstore, with individual investments of $1000 to startup. Nothing came of those suggestions. Then Patchett, the best selling author of Bel Canto and Truth and Beauty, began to think of opening a store.
In April, she met with Karen Hayes, who had worked with a large book wholesaler and as a sales rep for Random House. The two became partners and co-owners. Patchett, whose most recent book, State of Wonder, reached number 3 on the New York Times bestseller list, put up an initial investment of $300,00. When she went on a 15 city book tour last summer, she was bursting with questions for the owners of all the stores she visited: How many square feet? How many employees? What makes this store work?
“Put the children’s section in the back of the store,” (so if they bolt, they can be stopped before they hit the street). “If you hang signs from the ceiling, people will buy what’s advertised on them.” “Make your store comforting and inclusive, smart but not snobby.” These were bits of advice she gained from others in the trenches. Like other independent bookstores, Parnassus will use Google to offer ebooks to customers. (“Novelist Fights the Tide by Opening a Bookstore,” by Julie Bosman, The New York Times, Nov. 16, 2011, p. A1).
In an NPR interview, Ann Patchett said she felt nervous, “like the first day of school,” but added, “I actually think this is going to go really, really well.” http://www.npr.org/2011/11/16/142413792/ann-patchett-opens-parnassus-books-in-nashville
Patchett says Parnassus is her “gift to the city.” Compared to the bookstores Nashville lost, Ms Patchett’s store, at 2500′, is tiny, but she says, “This is the way bookstores used to be. This is the bookstore of my childhood, and I feel fantastic being back here.”
I think maybe all of us can remember the magic of childhood bookstores and wish Ann Patchett, Karen Hayes, and the city of Nashville great success with their latest enterprise.