Ann Patchett opens Nashville bookstore as other stores close

When two bookstores in Nashville closed, Patchett decided to open Parnassus Books, saying she's aiming for "an intelligent staff… [and] well-displayed, well-chosen books."

"This is the way bookstores used to be," says author Ann Patchett says of newly opened Parnassus Books. "This is the bookstore of my childhood."

Novelist Ann Patchett, best known for her books “Bel Canto” and the currently bestselling “State of Wonder,” opened a bookstore with co-owner Karen Hayes this week in Nashville.

The bookstore – named Parnassus Books after the mountain in Greece that inspired literature, poetry and music – is located in the city that has been called the Athens of the South. Patchett is a Nashville native and told The New York Times that she originally had no interest in opening a bookstore, but that the city’s suddenly barren bookstore landscape after other stores closed prompted her to take action.

“Yes, we are a shoebox of a bookstore,” Patchett told NPR. “But this is the way bookstores used to be. This is the bookstore of my childhood, and I feel fantastic being back here.”

Patchett said that despite the current struggles of small bookstores to stay afloat in an Amazon world, she believes readers are coming to rely on the tinier venues.

“People are … saying: I want the little store. I miss the little store,” Patchett told NPR. “And I think there are a lot of small stores that can really thrive in this environment.”

Patchett met in April with Hayes, who has worked at several publishing houses, and the two began discussing opening a bookstore. Patchett told Hayes she would provide $300,000 for a beginning investment. Her book tour shortly thereafter gave her an opportunity to check out other stores.

“The first thing I would say is: ‘How many square feet do you have? How many employees do you have? What are your hours?’ ” Patchett said in an interview with The New York Times.

Patchett said she got great advice from owner of the Boswell Book Company Daniel Goldin. The Boswell Book Company, an independent bookstore located in Milwaukee, has been posting strong sales despite the current economic climate, according to The New York Times.

“You can go in to a small store with an intelligent staff … [and] well-displayed, well-chosen books, and come out with five books that you're dying to read,” Patchett told NPR. “And that's what we're going to do.”

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.

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