We're launching this new feature with a store we think is the bees knees when it comes to promoting children's books: The Booksellers at Laurelwood. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, Laurelwood is one of the biggest indie stores in the mid-south and hosts over 250 events every year! Nicole Yasinsky, Laurelwood's children's team leader, was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
Don't miss the $20 gift card giveaway at the end of this post! The card can be used in store OR online for ANY merchandise (so you don't have to live in Memphis to make a purchase)!
How to Find The Booksellers at Laurelwood:
Location: Memphis, TN
Contact Info: 901-683-9801; firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome, Nicole! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us about your store. Can you start by telling us what makes Booksellers at Laurelwood unique?
The Booksellers at Laurelwood (formerly known as Davis-Kidd Booksellers) is one of the biggest independent bookstores in the mid-south, at a whopping 24,000 sq. ft., and we’ve been here for over 25 years! We have a full service bistro, a HUGE kids section, music, DVDs, and a ticket outlet for the Orpheum Theater. We host over 250 events a year including authors, dance troupes, musicians, story times, dog adoptions, fundraising events—there’s always something going on at The Booksellers!
Give us a virtual tour—what do we see when we first walk into your store? Is there a certain section that jumps out at us? Where do we find the children’s section?
When you first walk through our front doors (which feature one of my favorite details—book-shaped handles!) you are right in the middle of our New Books section. If you’re looking for the latest/hottest/best-selling books, this is where you’ll find them, along with tons of displays and tables featuring seasonal picks, staff favorites, award winners and more! If you shoot your eyes toward the back of the store, you will notice that the children’s section spans two thirds of the back wall. Upon entering the children’s section, you’ll notice that it extends all the way into the back corner. Our remodel about a year and a half ago allowed us to knock out a wall and expand even further, giving middle grade readers and teens a little space of their own (away from board books, babies, and Thomas the Tank Engine).
How do you match a child or a parent with a book? What questions do you ask?
When I approach a customer, every conversation goes a little differently. It has to. But it always starts with, “How are you?” Everyone’s needs are different, and you never know what you might find out about what is going on in their lives. People come in here looking for books/gifts for so many different reasons. Many of these are wonderful things-My daughter is pregnant! My niece has a birthday! The neighbor kid is graduating! But sometimes, they’re not so happy—My husband and I are getting a divorce… We lost our goldfish, Flipper, last night…OMG HELP ME POTTY-TRAIN MY CHILD BEFORE I LOSE MY MIND!!!! So before I can think about pairing someone with a book, I need to find out what’s going on with them, and then we get to the specifics— “How old are they?” “Is she a girly-girl or a not-so-girly-girl?” “Does he love books or hate them?” and get down to business!
What are your favorite titles to hand sell right now?
Oh, wow. This is a tough question. Because there are so many different situations for hand selling, and I discover new favorites every day, I hate to pick just a few, BUT…
Who’s on First? by Abbott & Costello is a must-have for every child. I grew up watching and memorizing this comedy skit, and this version-with a bear and a rabbit taking the place of Abbott & Costello-makes a perfect gift--for boy or girl, baby shower or birthday—and I know quite a few grown-ups who are getting a copy for themselves! John Martz perfectly illustrates this absolutely silly whirlwind of words and legendary intro to comedy!!
For middle graders, I am still hand selling Wonder by R. J. Palacio like crazy. We have partnered with our local literacy organization, Literacy Mid-South to organize a city-wide read of the book. I know it came out over a year ago, but I love putting this book in people’s hands. People are a little unsure when I first tell them I want them to read a book about a boy with facial differences and his friends...but I have had SO many of them come back in the store to thank me for recommending it—they tell me how the book has affected them and their child, and how they have passed it on to someone else, spreading the amazing message of the book to “choose kind”. These are the moments that make me feel great about being a bookseller.
Finally, for the YA set (and beyond), I am completely in love with Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. In a world of zombies and witches and vampires, this seemingly simple book about a boy and a girl (with NO super powers?!) is a breath of fresh air! The bond that Eleanor & Park form in the midst of all of the normal (and not-so-normal) strife of being a teen is one that I know I longed for daily in high school. By combining all of their quirks and broken parts, they hold each other up and protect each other from a world that isn't always pretty, and is— more often than not—incredibly harsh and ugly. It's a fictional love story so real it hurts. And, of course, the references to all kinds of 80s goodness-The Smiths, Micro-Machines, WALKMANS?!?! take me back and make me wish we all had friends like these two back then.
Does your bookstore coordinate school visits with authors? Or do you work with local teachers and librarians in some other way?
We LOVE our schools and work with them as much as we can. We take authors around to the schools, we host book fairs in our store and at the schools, and we run gift card drives to help raise funds. We are currently having a book drive for a local school that we heard had NO books on its shelves!!! We are always looking for new, fun ways to reach out to educators—they are some of our biggest allies in creating new readers and growing book lovers. I know that it was the influence of educators in my life that made me a book junkie—first, my elementary librarian mother, and my art teacher father (the art books and library discards around our house were some of my first reads!)—and then the amazing teachers and librarians who one by one helped me, pushed me, and encouraged me to love books—I can still remember vividly the first time I got special permission to check a book out of the “big kids” side of the library when I was only in Kindergarten. Without folks like these, plenty of kids might never discover how amazing books really are.
Why are children’s books an integral part of your store?
Children’s bookselling is SO important to our store because children are a big part of our customers’ lives. In a tough economy, I have found that this is one area in which people are still often willing to invest. Kids need books for so many reasons, and we are glad our community trusts us enough to provide those books for them! As Whitney Houston said, “I believe the children are our future”…well, yes. They literally are. If we aren’t doing everything we can as indie booksellers to grow future readers, we are sunk. These are the kids who will grow into adults with their own families and will hopefully still be coming to The Booksellers at Laurelwood!
Can interested parties buy books from your website?
Yes, please! Our website is www.thebooksellersatlaurelwood.com, and we would love for you to stop by if you can’t make it in to the store! You can also buy e-books and find out about all of our amazing events (and don’t forget to find us on Facebook and Twitter!).
Why are independent bookstores so important to the future of reading?
Independent bookselling is the heart of bookselling. It isn’t just retail for us. It’s a community. You walk into an indie bookstore and it is understood that we all share at least one thing in common-a love for books and reading. We love books. We love readers. We love talking about books to readers! We aren’t in it for the money, we’re here because we choose this. Every day. Independent booksellers will take the time to find the perfect book for each customer, even if it sometimes means running out in the parking lot and stopping traffic to get that book in their hands (yes, a co-worker and I did that just last week-can Amazon do that???)! We hug our customers, we high-five them, we laugh together, and sometimes we cry. We want to earn the trust of our readers and form relationships around books that will go on for generations. This is the future of reading. It has been going on for years, and in a world where the big guys always seem to finish first, indie bookstores and the readers who choose to support them are still here, and we aren’t going away.
Thanks for a fantastic interview! We hope all of you will check out the Booksellers at Laurelwood either online or in person!
There are lots of fantastic stores out there, so please leave a comment on this blog or find us on Twitter or Facebook if you work for or shop at a store you would like us to consider for this feature. a Rafflecopter giveaway