Sister Store Sundays Presents Parnassus Books

Parnassus Books

Welcome to the third installment of our new blog series “Sister Store Sundays”.
Every Sunday we will feature a quick Q&A with another Independent Bookstore. We want to introduce you to some of the fabulous people who are nurturing the cultural conversation around the country. This week we are excited to feature Parnassus Books of Nashville, TN! Co-owner, Karen Hayes was kind enough to answer our questions.

OBOFS: Why did you get into this bookstore?
PB: My first job in the books business was at Ingram Book Co. when I was in my early twenties. My last job was as a sales rep for Random House calling on independent bookstores for the majority of the 18 years I was with them. Things were changing rapidly during the last few years. Publishers were merging and independent stores were closing, so the idea that I could keep doing this job indefinitely was in question. I had been trying to figure out what I would do if my job disappeared. Then Joseph-Beth, the parent company to our local independent Davis-Kidd declared bankruptcy and the closing of all their stores. I knew that the problem wasn’t with the local store. It had always been profitable. So I started thinking about opening a bookstore myself for the first time. The hitch was supporting myself for the year or so it would take to raise the money and open the store, so I shelved the idea. Then a couple months later Random House offered early retirement to employees over fifty and I saw my chance. I started talking with everyone in town that I could to help raise funds for a bookstore coop. I had gotten a few people in line to help, when I sat down with Ann Patchett and a mutual friend of ours, Mary Grey James. Ann liked my business plan, but didn’t really like the idea of a coop and suggested that we team up and do this ourselves. She would provide the majority of the funding and I would run the store. Naturally I agreed.

OBOFS: How many people do you employ?
PB: Around 20. About 12 are part-time.

OBOFS: How has social medial helped the business?
PB: Yes. It is hard to say how much, but we have 8000 people on Facebook, 5000 twitter and we just started Instagram

OBOFS: What is different today from when you started out?
PB: The learning curve has been huge, so this question is hard to answer without going on and on.

OFS: What do you wish you had known then?
PB: I was pretty conservative on my projections for the store. I hadn’t anticipated the volume of business we would be doing and the store size was just a bit too small, especially in backroom, where we need more space for storage, receiving and desk space, and in the children’s section. Luckily, we were able to double the size of our backroom space and our children’s area last fall when some space next to ours came available.

OBOFS: What should the public know about independent bookstores that they probably don’t?
PB: I think the majority of our customers know this, but an independent bookstore, provides local jobs, pays local sales and property taxes, supports local authors, provide programing that enriches the community, and partners and supports local schools and charitable organizations.

OBOFS: What plans does the store have for the next year that people should keep an eye out for?
PB: No big plans at this moment.

OBOFS: How do you handle the “Amazon Showroom” Phenomenon?”
PB: We rarely see this happening in the store. If I see someone that looks like they might be doing that, I just ask them if they need any help and try to engage them in conversation. If you can develop a relationship, hopefully they will come around to supporting the store.

OFS: What do you offer your community that they and B&N don’t?
PB: (See the answer about independent bookstores.)

OBOFS: What are you reading right now that is captivating?
PB: I’m reading Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson and really enjoying it. She is such an engaging writer. This is really different from her Jackson Brody series, but just as good.

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  1. A Wilmington Institution since 1982
  2. Buying Old Books: The ultimate Recycling
  3. Best African American Literature Selection in Town
  4. Extensive Foreign Language Section: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese
  5. The ONLY bookstore in town to deliver!
  6. Paperback Classics at affordable prices (Great for English classes!)
  7. Incredible Judaica Section
  8. Largest selection of scripts and Theatre/Film books in Town
  9. Where else are you going to find a first edition for under $10?
  10. Bibliophiles rock!