On April 29, Joseph-Beth Booksellers founder Neil Van Uum will close on the Memphis store, which will reopen as DK Booksellers, the name he chose for his new book company. In a phone conversation, Van Uum acknowledged the support of Tom Prewitt, president of Laurelwood Shopping Center, Inc., where the store is located. “He helped me out on rent in exchange for signing a long-term lease,” says Van Uum, who is planning a complete remodel of the store and a major refresh of the inventory. He also thanked the community. “The outpouring of support in Memphis has been unbelievable,” he says.
After Van Uum lost last week’s auction—for the Cincinnati, Lexington, and Cleveland stores, Joseph-Beth headquarters, and the Joseph-Beth and Davis-Kidd names and trade marks—$3.8 million to $3.9 million bid by Booksellers Enterprises, the company formed by his Lexington landlord, he said that he felt he needed to do something. So he bought the Memphis store from liquidator Gordon Brothers. He is still disappointed that Joseph-Beth was unable to emerge from bankruptcy intact. “Our situation had all the makings of a plan reorganization,” he says.
Van Uum says that he is looking forward to “getting back to my roots” as a bookseller and putting together a bookselling team. He would like to buy back the Davis-Kidd name and is even looking into returning to Nashville. He has already reached out to Thelma Kidd, co-founder of Davis-Kidd, about the possibility of reopening a store there. “That may be something we’ll set our sites on—and Cincinnati,” he says. Although the Memphis store is 24,000 sq. ft., as were many Joseph-Beth locations, Van Uum believes the bookstore of the future should be significantly smaller, maybe 10,000 sq. ft. Any future locations would have a smaller footprint.