“This is such a loving community, full of generosity,” author Lauren Groff told PW at Winter Institute 2024 in Cincinnati, which marked her first official outing as a bookseller. “I didn’t realize, as a writer, that this is a business, but a business like no other.” She added: “People are sharing everything with me and I’m often close to tears. AWP”—the Association of Writers & Writing Program’s annual conference, which had taken place less than a week earlier—“feels so spiky; there’s so much ego there. Here, it’s sunshine.”

This spring, Groff, the multiple National Book Award finalist and author of five novels and two short story collections, and her husband, Clay Kallman, will open the Lynx, an indie bookstore in downtown Gainesville, Fla. The store, which will open sometime in April, will be a full-service, general bookstore in a 2,300-sq.-ft. space with a small café area. Groff—who, with her two store managers, has been ordering books while awaiting the delivery of store bookshelves—says that there will be approximately 7,000 books in stock for adults and children “at this point,” and that the selection will emphasize books that are banned in Florida’s schools and libraries and books by Floridian authors.

“We’ve wanted to open a bookstore ever since we moved to Gainesville [in 2006],” Groff said, noting that Kallman “grew up working in a bookstore and knows the business.” During the Great Depression, Kallman’s grandfather, Irving Kallmann, launched the Florida Book Store in his dormitory room at the University of Florida. The Kallman family sold the bookstore in the 1990s; it closed in 2016 after 83 years in operation.

The couple’s desire to open a bookstore intensified in response to the waves of book bans that have swept over the Sunshine State under Governor’s Ron DeSantis’ term and the limits placed by the state on teaching certain aspects of U.S. and Florida history. “It’s really bad, and we were struggling with what we could do as individuals,” Groff said, noting that the store is named in honor of Florida lynx, wildcats native to the state. “The lynx is ferocious, and we hope to be ferocious when it comes to book bans,” she added, noting that the store’s name is also “a bit of a pun, as a bookstore is a necessary nexus, where you find community with people who love what you love.”

Groff hopes that, with an inventory that emphasizes books by BIPOC and LGBTQ+ authors that deal with such issues as race, gender identity, and sexuality, the Lynx “will reverberate outwards, and be a beacon of hope.” She also hopes that opening such a store will make people elsewhere realize that Floridians are not all right-wing extremists—that “it is a purple state, but gerrymandering has turned it red.”

Bookselling Authors Share some Advice

Emma Straub, the co-owner of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y., also spoke with PW at WI24, sharing some advice for Groff as she embarks on her side gig as a bookseller. “Hire people who want to do all the parts that you have no interest in,” Straub suggested. “The truth is that when writers open bookstores, I think we usually get a bit caught up in all the exciting parts ,and maybe overlook the bit about running a retail business, which turns out to be the hardest part.”

Ann Patchett, the owner of Parnassus Bookstore in Nashville, Tenn., also had words of advice for Groff. “Lauren Groff has amazing boundaries, so I know she’s not going to get overwhelmed and stop writing,” Patchett said. “She’s also super friendly and warm, so I have no doubt she’ll be a great boss and do a wonderful job with customers. What could I possibly tell her that she doesn’t already know? Free food is the number one reported source of employee happiness. Provide food. But be ruthless about the staff refrigerator and throw out leftovers. Keep snacks in sealed containers. Bookstores don’t think about mice, but it can happen.”