When Carmichael’s Kids opens in Louisville, Ky., this August, it will be the third store and first children’s specialty book and toy store for Carol Besse and Michael Boggs, founders of Carmichael’s Bookstore in 1978. Although the store name combines both their first names, the new store also marks the beginning of a transition to new ownership by a second generation of the family. Niece Kelly Estep already buys kids’ books for Carmichael’s and manages the Bardstown Road location. She will also oversee the new store and has been the driving force behind it. Daughter Miranda Boggs manages the 15-year-old Frankfort Avenue store.
“It’s been something that’s been rolling around in the back of our minds for a long time,” said Besse of Carmichael’s Kids. But her comment about how she and Boggs came to add a children’s store could apply equally to their decision to begin looking toward retirement and giving up the long days involved in running a bookstore well; Carmichael’s was named a PW Bookstore of the Year in 2009. “The stores are doing well overall,” Besse added. “But the children’s book area is a real growth area for us. It’s also more insulated from e-books and Amazon. We feel like people just want to see children’s books and hold them.”
Although the new store will sell both books and toys, Besse was clear that it will be a bookstore first and foremost. To start, the inventory will be split 80% books, 20% toys. Initially, Besse acknowledged, she was hesitant about opening a separate kids’ store. “We’ve always thought it would be dangerous to take all the children’s books away,” she said. After speaking and e-mailing with Square Books in Oxford, Miss., about their experience opening a kids’ bookstore and moving the children’s books out, Besse decided to go forward with the plan. And when a space opened up that’s visible from the Bardstown store, she said, “we jumped on it.”
While the Frankfort Avenue bookstore will continue to carry children’s titles, the Bardstown store will move all of its books for middle grade and younger to Carmichael’s Kids. The goal is to give the 1,000-square-foot. Bardstown store more breathing space. YA will remain in the older store to encourage crossover shopping by adults, and because many teens don’t want to be seen shopping in a children’s store. The kids’ store will be 1,000 square feet; Frankfurt is slightly larger at 1,500 square feet.
Besse also relied on the wisdom of other booksellers to help choose a name. Estep tested Carmichael’s for Kids at Children’s Institute in San Antonio, and was told to shorten it to Carmichael’s Kids. The new store got an additional assist last month: a James Patterson grant, despite the fact that very few grants are being given to new enterprises.
Also for Kids
Carmichael’s isn’t the only store expanding into the children’s-only space. Over Memorial Day weekend Teich Toys and Books had a soft opening in Manhattan, at 573 Hudson Street (at the corner of West 11th St.). The spinoff from Teich, a design store for men, women, and kids, is 80% eco-friendly classic toys with some baby apparel and 20% board books, picture books, and story-time selections. Gradually the books will expand upward to ages nine and 10.
This isn’t typical bookstore fare for young people, like the classics or bestsellers. “As a parent you get sick of reading the same books,” said owner Allison Teich McGowan, who handles the book buying. “So I wanted to curate a selection of books that’s just as exciting for the parents as it is for the kids.” She wants customers to leave feeling they picked up a gift that’s unique and can’t be found everywhere.
And while it’s not exactly children’s-only, a new, as yet unnamed, bookstore from Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney is slated to open in March 2015. At the children’s breakfast at BEA Kinney announced that he is moving ahead with a bookstore and cafe in Plainville, Mass., as originally reported by PW last summer.