By Evie Fowler
After 30 years of serving the Memphis community, the northeast corner of the Laurelwood Shopping Center in East Memphis is given a third chance as the space transitions from The Booksellers of Laurelwood to Novel. Memphis - all thanks to a dedicated group of Memphians who could not bear to see their beloved bookstore removed. Read more to learn about the origins and future of Novel.
In January 2017, many Memphians were saddened by the announcement that the city’s cherished independent bookstore, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, would close in late February.
Twenty-seven of those Memphians decided that they could not allow the closure and set out to save the space. One of these 27 is our very own Turkey: Mrs. Christy Yarbro, who recently began as the Assistant Director of Admission.
In early January, Mrs. Yarbro sat in Pavo Salon waiting for her sons to get haircuts, when she came across the first article in The Commercial Appeal about The Booksellers closing. She turned to her youngest son, told him about the closing and watched as a “look of horror and sadness” came across his face.
Immediately, they went down to the store and found Wilson Robbins, the manager of The Booksellers’ children’s section. Yarbro explained to Robbins that they had to save the store, even if it meant opening up an entirely new one.
During this conversation, Robbins told her that John Vergos, the owner of Charlie Vergos Rendezvous Restaurant, had also come to Booksellers with similar intentions of opening a new store in The Bookseller’s place. Yarbro contacted Vergos, and, together they organized weekly meetings with a group of investors.
Plans were then made to open a new, independent bookstore, Novel., which opened on August 18.
Although occupying the same space, Novel.’s design is different from that of The Booksellers. It is smaller, but houses a larger inventory. Additionally, there is also a new event space in the back of the store available for community use.
Libro, the store’s restaurant, will have a soft opening this weekend and will be officially opening on Sept. 5. Sabine Bachmann, owner of Ecco in Overton Park and Fratelli’s Cafe at the Memphis Botanic Garden, will serve as Libro’s head chef. The menu features locally sourced fresh ingredients incorporated into dishes including salads, soups, sandwiches, desserts, and even in-house made bread and pasta.
Novel. is proud to say that the store offered positions to all returning staff of The Booksellers at Laurelwood, an unusual decision in similar retail agreements.
Yarbo says, “the fact that they love what they do so much that they could come back to the bookstore, really says a lot about the store and the community that shops in the store.”
One of these veteran employees, Nicole Yasinsky, who has worked at the store since it was Davis Kidd Booksellers, says “[Memphians] spoke out when we closed the doors and said loud and clear that they want an indie bookstore in this spot, and we heard them! Now that we are back, and finally locally-owned and operated, we want to provide our city with what they want and need. We want to be involved and engaged in our community.”
Yasinsky also says, “Memphians, and everyone, must understand that if they don't come see us, we can't go on forever. In an age where everything you've ever wanted is accessible with the click of a button, it is more important than ever to use your money wisely and shop locally.”
The staff of Novel. made a request to be called “Novel.” so not to be confused with the previous bookstore names of “Davis Kidd,” “The Booksellers,” or simply, “the bookstore.”
“We chose the name for its simplicity. We chose it because novels are one of the genres of books. And, we chose it for its name meaning ‘new and different.’” says Yarbro.
St. Mary’s students can support the space’s new name and help to spread the mission of Novel. by following them on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook or just by stopping by the store and grabbing a good read any weekday from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.