We had the pleasure of chatting with Laura Donohoe, the Assistant Bookstore Manager and Receiving Manager, and Caroline Christopoulos, Book Buyer and Community Events Coordinator, at Malaprop's about what makes their store so special. In addition to all the great commentary about their very special store, Laura and Caroline also emphasize that Malaprop's has a fantastic website as well (as do many indie stores). For those of you who have recently lost a store in your area, consider purchasing from Malaprop's.
Welcome Laura and Caroline!
Tell us about your store, what makes Booksellers at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe unique?
Malaprop's is a unique store in a unique town. Asheville, NC is a quirky hotbed of liberals, radicals, punks, spiritualists, hippies, hipsters, nerds, mountain folk, lesbians, and academics (much of our community is several of these groups put together.) Malaprop's has the AWESOME opportunity to bring books that might appeal to these folk- our regional selection, general fiction, poetry, children's and young adult, and graphic novel sections are particularly impressive. The booksellers range in age from their early 20s to their early 60s and our tastes are broad. We like cute books, romantic books, scary books, serious books, intense fiction, fluid poetry, radical politics, and pretty pictures. We celebrate each other like a family would- enjoying each others’ gifts and the things each of us bring to the store, and forgiving each others’ weaknesses. Our events are awesome- we have lots of them and we feature never before heard of poets with their new chapbooks, and New York Times bestselling authors who bring crowds of hundreds. Some of us are extroverts and some are introverts. We love to talk lots with our customers, authors, and coworkers regardless. We each love Malaprop's like it's our motherland.
Give us a virtual tour – what do we see when we first walk in? Is there a certain section that jumps out at us? Where do we find the children’s section?
When you first walk in to Malaprop's you see a round table full of teetering stacks of "new and notable" paperbacks...local favorites and national bestsellers often comprise the selections on this table. You smell the delicious coffee brewing away in the cafe to the left of the front door (this is also where our amazing and very deep Regional collection of titles can be found), and see the sun streaming over author event tables in the front windows to the right of the front door. The first section you will walk past is our staff picks (Malaprop's bestselling section!) which always features big colorful children's picture books marching across the top...after the staff picks, folks must go past all the less interesting areas of the store to the very back, where kids books live! They take up the whole back wall of the store, plus a little of the north wall (we're taking over!!!).
How do you match a child or a parent with a book? What questions do you ask?
When both parent and child are in the store, I try to talk to the child directly. Some kids are shy, some are too little, some just don't know what they want...but I think it is important to give a child agency in the book selection process by including them directly. When they ask for a book, I try to first guess their age and ask if I'm right (I'm often off by 1 year...) then I ask what kind of books they like - or which books are their favorites. Then I can find some comparable titles that maybe they haven't heard of. It is the best feeling in the world when I can send a young person or a family home with something new that they were not expecting and can’t wait to read!
What are your favorite titles to hand sell right now?
How much space do you have for this one! Currently, some of our favorite things to hand sell are Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz, Who Done It? edited by Jon Scieszka, Colin Fischer by Ashley Miller, The Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne Valente (I really could go on and on). I am answering this as one of the Children’s Book Buyers, but our entire staff loves YA and Children’s books to such an extent that we all fight to help anyone asking for recommendations!!
Does your bookstore coordinate school visits with authors?
Or do you work with local teachers and librarians in some other way? Currently we do not coordinate school visits, but we do work with many local teachers and librarians. We frequently have large groups of kids come with their teachers to shop the store for books they would like for themselves and their classrooms. Librarians from both local schools and area public libraries come and purchase what they need to keep their shelves stocked with the latest and greatest or to replenish those titles that get too worn and torn from so much use. We really enjoy those interactions and the dialogue they allow us to have about all sorts of things with the students, teachers and librarians.
Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café is such a critical part of the local community. We are currently in our 31st year under the original ownership and our vision and mission has consistently been to be there for this community in all ways possible. We have customers who literally grew up in this store. We sold them their favorite books as children and now we are helping them select books for their children. We wouldn’t be able to play such a large role in the community without our children’s section. Plus…kid’s books are just the absolute most fun to sell!!
Can interested parties buy books from your website?
Yes they can!!!! We have an amazing website. You can purchase anything - from the books you expect to find to our Malaprop’s Exclusive items that you can only find here. Our entire event schedule is available for months in advance and, when the events are ticketed, you can purchase tickets online as well. You can see all of our staff favorites if you need recommendations and we also post the store bestsellers each week – including our bestselling Children’s Books! I wish more people realized that many Independent Bookstores have very, very good websites and that they can easily support a local bookstore even if they no longer have one in their immediate neighborhood simply by shopping on line with a great Indie they have discovered while traveling or heard about from a friend.
Books are about great ideas, and great ideas should be discussed and shared. When you walk into an independent bookstore, you are walking into a place where the people have come together for the love of these ideas. Anyone can open the newspaper and find the “bestseller” lists, but the fact that a book sold enough copies to make those lists does not necessarily indicate that it is best book out there (and, in my opinion, frequently, means just the opposite!). There are thousands of wonderful books and authors you have no chance of discovering without the help of someone whose lifelong passion it is to make sure you do. If those books don’t sell, the publishers will stop publishing them and that will be such a heartbreaking loss to everyone. Helping people find those books iselpin what we are here for and that is something that a corporately controlled operation will never have the flexibility (or desire) to do. Books are much more than just another commodity – they can be life changing and their care and feeding should be entrusted to people who genuinely want them to stay around for the long run!
How to find Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe:
Location: Asheville, NC
Contact Info:828-254-6734; firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: http://www.malaprops.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malaprops-BookstoreCafe/20393760161