Sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time. In this case, the right place was Facebook and the right time was Tuesday, when I happened to notice a shared post that quietly announced the upcoming debut of Her Bookshop, a small independent bookstore scheduled to launch this June at the Shoppes on Fatherland in East Nashville, Tenn. Since the opening of another new indie is always my favorite breaking news, I had to investigate further.
The owner of Her Bookshop is Joelle Herr, who has worked in the publishing industry for two decades, holding editorial positions at several companies, including Running Press (where she was managing editor), Workman (senior production editor) and Sterling (senior editor). In 2011, "after a rather gypsy-like decade of moving around (including across the country and back), I returned to Nashville, where I grew up," Herr recalled. "For the past five years, I've been mostly freelance editing and writing, most recently a handful of literature-centric books for Running Press' One Sitting series and William Shakespeare Rewritten by You for Ulysses Press. Next up are a couple of Jane Austen books for Cider Mill Press. I also spent a year at BookPage, where, after years of 'creating' books, I was excited to have the opportunity to work more directly with readers, getting them excited about newly published books."
Long before she followed this bookish career path, Herr said she "harbored a desire to have my own bookstore, but I didn't give it serious consideration until very recently. I was looking to rent a small office for my freelance business, actually, and came across what seemed like the perfect spot for a bookstore. I mean, I walked into the room and had a moment. The vision was crystal clear. And it got the wheels turning. Could I do it? Was I brave enough to take such a huge risk? Would people come in and buy enough books for me to make a profit, a living? What if I failed? My mind was swirling." She subsequently reached out to former colleagues for guidance, "and the next thing I knew, I had quite a few highly esteemed industry veterans offering advice and lots and lots of encouragement."
Herr eventually determined that the space where she'd experienced her original vision of indie bookseller heaven was a little too big and expensive to start out, but she found what she described as "an even better spot" near Five Points, "which is the heart and hub of East Nashville.... It's less than a mile from where I live, a warm, absolutely wonderful neighborhood that is incredibly supportive of small, locally owned businesses. I am hopeful that Her Bookshop will be a welcome addition to the thriving community."
At 400 square feet, Her Bookshop will be compact, but the goal is "to carry a little bit of everything, with a slight focus on illustrated gift books, which have been the focus of my career," she noted. "This is where I intend to start, in any case. I'm perfectly aware that I may need to adapt my vision so that it corresponds with what my neighbors are interested in buying and reading. Thankfully, my boyfriend has been running his own business (a drum supply company) for more than 20 years and will be on hand to help me with the business side--and calming me down when I feel overwhelmed. I take over the lease on June 1 and am aiming to open later that month."
I asked Herr if there were particular indie booksellers she considered inspirations for her new venture? "Of course, Parnassus Books here in Nashville and Landmark Booksellers in nearby Franklin," she replied. "I also love Sundog Books in Seaside, Fla., Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C., and Powell's Books in Portland, Ore. These are all much, much larger spaces than I'll have, but they're inspiring nonetheless. The store I'd most like to emulate is powerHouse Books in Brooklyn. I love that most of their books are on tables--such a visual feast."
Herr's preparations for her new role include a road trip next month to a destination where she will be surrounded by hundreds of her bookselling peers: "I just made my plans to head to Chicago for BookExpo America in a few weeks. It's going to be a real pinch-me moment to see 'owner' on my bookseller badge and not 'editor!' " --Published by Shelf Awareness, issue #2738