In an opening celebration this past Saturday, Nashville, Tenn. was introduced to Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore co-owned by best-selling Nashville author Ann Patchett (State of Wonder) and Karen Hayes, a veteran of Random House and Ingram. Nashville has been suffering a dearth of quality, new-title bookstores after losing its two major book outlets, Davis Kidd and Borders. With the shuttering of Borders, and the nearest Barnes & Noble 20 miles out of town, Nashville native Patchett decided to fill the breach with a small, community-centric bookstore, which quickly became one of the most hotly-anticipated bookstore openings of the year.
“I wanted to recreate the kind of bookstore that I went to when I was growing up,” Patchett told PW at the grand opening event. “No fluorescent lights, not a superstore, no escalators. Where the emphasis is on staff instead of square footage.”
Named after the mountain in Greece that served as the mythical home for the muses, the goddesses of art, culture, and learning, Parnassus the bookstore is located in Nashville’s Green Hills neighborhood, near the former location of a Davis-Kidd. Just a few minutes south of downtown, the 2,500-square-foot store serves as a warm, inviting space for Nashvillians of all kinds, with a welcoming sky blue ceiling, friendly chalkboard genre boards perched above the shelves and glittering star-shaped lanterns floating above a Doric-columned children’s enclave. The result is an intimacy not often found in big-box retailers.
“I like a store of this size,” Patchett said. “You can find things. We have the good books. We don’t just have everything in the world. I think we know now that no bookstore can have everything in the world. That’s what Amazon is for.”
Opening day brought a flurry of activities for Parnassus’ first customers: an early afternoon puppet show, followed by a celebration of local Young Adult authors and an evening meet-and-greet with regional authors, including A. Scott Pearson, Richard Courtney, Tracey Barrett, Marshall Chapman and Patchett’s mother, Jeanne Ray.
The store was packed throughout the day-long event, holding no less than 150 people at any one time. Much of its hand-selected stock sold out quickly, including Patchett’s 2011 bestseller, State of Wonder, prompting the author to sell her last five personal copies.
Local author Erin Tocknell, who has had difficulty selling her book of poems Confederate Streets (Banu) following the closing of Davis Kidd, is especially excited about the opening. ”Just the ability to say yeah, I’m selling this book and you can get it at a real brick and mortar store,” she said, will improve her sales.
Book signings and other community events will pick up after the New Year, but for now, Patchett is focused on honing the fundamentals. “Let’s figure out how to use the cash register first,” she quipped, “and then we will go on and do events after Christmas.”