It’s that time of the week again! Yep, Bookspot of the Week time. This time round, we’re taking you to Jackson, MS, and for anyone in the vicinity we recommend you head there, STAT. We spoke with Hillary Taylor, Event Director and bookseller at Lemuria Books, a beautiful, cosy, velvet-clad paradise for booklovers the world over. With a flair you just can’t get online, Lemuria is the perfect place for a cosy September afternoon (or entire day, we don’t judge!).
How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?
Our owner, John Evans, started this book store in a converted apartment stuffed full of books back in 1975. He spent his days working with the books and his nights working at the bar right next door to make ends meet. John had always wanted to create his own personal library and then saw the opportunity to create a space to share that library with his community. Lemuria Books moved to its current location in 1988 and was able to expand its inventory and really get down to the business of books.
What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?
The actual layout and design of our store makes us unique. We have floor to ceiling shelves that weave in and out, expanding into three departments of the store. We have a huge amount of inventory, but our store is laid out in such a way, it makes one feel like they’re walking into someone’s home. We have comfy, velvet couches and nooks to get lost in.
Another way that we are unique is that we are dedicated to having signed first editions in our store. We have two rooms that are filled with rare signed first editions, as well as First Edition Clubs for Fiction, NonFiction, and Children’s books.
If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?
A bar. Plain and simple. When we host author events in our annex building, we sell $1 beer out of a fridge and listen to music before the author speaks. It’s kind of a book juke joint.
How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?
After 40 years, I’d say we fit into our local community really well. When I first started working here five years ago, I had no idea how much this bookstore meant to the people in this community. But, it didn’t take long to realize. We’re a place where families grow up, generation to generation coming back for more. We bring authors from all across the US to our readers and they get to experience meeting either a beloved author, or someone completely new. We feel as if we are an institution for book culture within our community and it’s truly beautiful to see.
What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?
Real books and real booksellers. Our booksellers are constantly reading, in all different genres, in order to help anyone pick out their next read. We love forming connections with our readers, offering our recommendations and in turn, taking in theirs as well.
Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?
When we are filling a bookseller position, we look for someone that we feel can grow in this environment and in their love for reading. There’s really no other job out there that can prepare you for bookselling. Yes, this is retail…but it’s so much more than that. Reading is such a personal journey and you have to be willing to expand that journey and share it with others.
How else do you create a welcoming environment?
Velvet couches, stacks of books on the floor, friendly and knowledgeable booksellers. Our bookstore has a very laid back, homey feel to it.
What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?
It’s a fun place for people of all ages to meet a favorite or new author. Our readers know that they will receive a great, new recommendation from a bookseller/friend when they come in. I think our overall atmosphere is appealing to our readers, we like to feel like a family here.
Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?
Definitely! Betty by Tiffany Mcdaniel was released in August and it’s truly amazing, I cannot wait to handsell this book to EVERYONE.
Two other books that we’re really excited for is Yaa Gyasi’s new book, Transcendent Kingdom and Richard Grant’s new book The Deepest South of All.
Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?
Yes and no. We have an entire section dedicated to Southern writers and Southern history, which is browsed by locals as well as readers from out of state. We also carry lots of contemporary, new fiction. We’ll have something for everyone….but we do know those handful of authors that are always going to do well with our community of readers. With those authors, they have dedicated shelves and stacks on the floor year round.
Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?
Come see us! You deserve a good book and our booksellers would love to help!
All images via Lemuria