Friday, January 6, 2017

Booksellers


One day about thirty years ago, I walked into Davis Kidd Booksellers, a new bookstore in Memphis, and found myself wondering how I was ever going to make myself leave. Compared to the enormous bookstores of the last twenty years or so ago, it was quite small, but it was about 4 times as big as any bookstore in Memphis except college bookstores. And it was beautiful. The bookshelves were very nice and there were nice little alcoves for the different collections and there was a good selection of books. I asked them if I could live there. They looked at me like I was crazy, but in the nicest possible way.

I didn't really have enough money to buy new books at that time, but I loved going into the store now and then, and apparently a lot of other people did too, because soon they moved into a building that was much larger, but still very attractive and comfortable--the kind of place where you could sit all day and read, and they didn't mind if you did.

This looks a lot more inviting from one of those
 chairs when the fire is lit.
There were, of course, current best-sellers but there were classics and good history books, too. It wasn't unusual to run across something like a table full of books by and about T. S. Eliot. Well, there was everything you could want, and if you couldn't find it, the employees would be happy to help you find it, and if they didn't have it, they would get it for you.

The staff was second to none--always friendly and helpful--and once they started working there, they stayed a long time. Their exemplary customer service was what set the store over and above all the other bookstores. And the employees were knowledgeable. They knew their stock and they knew something about the books. I don't know why so many businesses seem oblivious to the fact that treating your customers right keeps them coming back, but we all know how rare it is to go to a store where you're treated as a valued customer. I watched a video the other day in which the owners of the store, Karen Davis and Thelma Kidd talked about booksellers and said that their motto was to be the best bookstore they could be. They came as close to reaching that goal as anyone could.

In 1996 when the store had been open for about eleven years, my 18 year old daughter, Rachel, got a job there, and worked there for the next 17 years. This, of course, made the bookstore even more attractive, (her discount made it extremely attractive) and after they opened a restaurant, my mother and sister and I used to eat lunch in the bistro sometimes, and Rachel would come eat with us. Sometimes other family members would be there too. As is about par for the course in our family, the only pictures I have of the store are of us eating--and the food was really good.

My oldest daughter, Lisa, my mom and Lisa's baby,
who is considerably bigger now.

Rachel and her daughter.

My mom and granddaughter, Tessa
For some reason, I can see my mother and I sitting in the window of this restaurant eating lunch with my grandmother as we did in many restaurants over the years, but Grandmamma died about the time the bookstore opened and long before the restaurant opened. I guess I just always think of her when the family gathers.

The bookstore also had other stuff--as bookstores almost always do these days. Most of the time I just walk by the stuff in other stores, but I must have had the same taste as the buyer for Davis Kidd because a good many of the knick knacks in my house were bought by me or for me by my daughter. This is my favorite.


When I have insomnia this is the cup I use to make my Sleepytime tea. so I can get back to sleep.

About 10 years ago, Ms. Davis and Ms. Kidd decided to get out of the book business and they sold the bookstore to Joseph-Beth, an Ohio-based chain. The new owners decided to keep the old name and the old employees, and from the customers' point of view, not much changed. Then about 6 years ago, Joseph-Beth filed for bankruptcy. The store came very close to closing at that time, but at the last minute was saved my a new investor and it became The Booksellers of Laurelwood--but I never called it anything but Davis Kidd and I don't think I'm alone.

Sadly, the reason I'm writing this post is because today is the last day that the Booksellers will be in business. It's really amazing that they have stayed open this long, managing to stand up to the challenges of the big discount bookstores and then Amazon. There aren't many independents that have. It may sound trite to say that Davis Kidd was not just a business, but a real part of the community, but it's true. There was always something going on there for the community; great children's programs and book signings--some small and some gigantic, e.g. Julie Andrews, or Jimmy Carter. They will really be missed. It make me want to cry--well, it makes me cry. And when it's gone, it will probably be the last of it's kind. 


AMDG







5 comments:

  1. Oh, I had no idea...I'm awake at 4:22 reading this, and I think I will cry with you any minute now. (I forgot to try the tea....) How did we not hear about this? Did something come up suddenly, or have I just been that out of touch to not know about it? This has been our most frequent place for Friday night meals--until they started having Trivia events on Friday nights! I was buying Christmas gifts there just a few weeks ago, and saw no indication of a pending closing....Oh, this is just almost too much to bear in the middle of the night this way.

    And part of me hates that I am using the Internet to read and write about this, because I suppose it is the Internet (Amazon et al) that has brought this about?

    And just yesterday I accepted a request from one of the longtime booksellers there on LinkedIn, which seemed such a strange, out-of-the-blue thing to happen.

    I really can't imagine life in Memphis without "the bookstore formerly known as Davis-Kidd," as we began calling it when the name changed. I send my clients there to get books, as it's right around the corner from my office. I meet friends there for lunch. It was our date place.

    Well, I guess I know where we'll be spending part of our Saturday today....

    I'm so sad to see this, but so glad I saw it. Thank you, Janet, for writing it.

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  2. Fairhope has an independent bookstore which has been there since sometime in the '60s and seems to be thriving. That has to have a lot to do with the sort of general up-scaling of the town over the past 20-30 years, though. They're also a coffee shop and the downtown area is "quaint" (grrr) and popular with up-scale ladies, so all that foot traffic must make a big difference. I don't really patronize them--they don't have much that I want and Amazon makes it soooo easy--but I should. I did special order Esolen's Dante translation from them.

    Anyway, I'm sorry to hear about the Memphis store.

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  3. Interesting article.. Enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good job!

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