Little Shop of Stories

Illustrator Jacky Davis reads Ladybug Girl to a rapt audience at a Little Shop event in April. Author David Soman is not pictured.

In anticipation of the Decatur Book Festival (as in, the biggest independent book festival in the country!), I’m visiting eight independent bookstores in and around Decatur, GA over the next month and featuring them on this space. The lineup includes: Eagle Eye BooksCharis Books and MoreLittle Shop of StoriesBlue Elephant BookshopFox Tale BookshoppeBound to be ReadA Capella Books and Peerless Bookstore. Today I’m excited to be sharing my chat with store manager, Krista Gillman from Little Shop of Stories.

If the claim on their website is true, Little Shop of Stories is “the best independent bookstore for children and their adults in Decatur … Atlanta… Georgia .. America … the western hemisphere … the World, our solar system!” With a superlative as grand as that, I had to stop by and hear what made them so great, and also, how they were preparing for the Decatur Book Festival. As it turns out, the folks at Little Shop works closely with the planning committee of DBF – getting authors and pitching ideas to publishers about which authors they think should be invited – so this was a topic very close to Gillman’s heart. As with Eagle Eye Books, Little Shop is preparing for September 2-4 to be their busiest weekend of the year.

What are you most excited about for the DBF?

The keynote speaker, of course. I think it’s fantastic that we’ve having a children’s author as the keynote. It’ll be something different and interesting.

About that keynote: Decemberists frontman, Colin Meloy, and the acclaimed illustrator Carson Ellis will be speaking about their new children’s book, WildwoodThis article from the Decatur Metro pretty much sums up our feelings on the subject. 

Also Libba Bray and her book: Beauty Queens. I haven’t read the book yet but it sounds hilarious.

I hadn’t heard about this book before talking with Krista – less a reflection on the book/author than on my reading selections. But after talking with Krista and read this synopsis from  IndieboundI’m thinking I might have to make a foray into YA lit in preparation for the festival.

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island. Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to emall. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

How funny is that? It’ll be like Lord of the Flies with beauty queens. It’s a book that I think both adults and kids will read.

Also, Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimmanother funny one about the real Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales – you know, the morbid ones where a girl cuts her fingers off to use as a key to get into a city? – before Disney got a hold of them. Hansel and Gretel is in there too.

Judy Schachner is another one we’re excited about. She’ll be there talking about her new book Skippy Jon Jones, Class Action. This will be Judy’s third time at the festival and she’s always lots of fun. Last year she ate cat food while she was signing.

Do events like DBF make people more aware about the benefits of shopping local? 

People in Decatur are generally more aware than other places. The city does a good job of promoting local businesses. We’re fortunate in that respect. The 3/50 project is a good example. A while back the city sent around fliers urging people to pick three independent business they love and would miss if they disappeared, and then spend 50 dollars at each of them every month. The idea being that if everyone did that, a certain percentage – I can’t remember exactly – of the revenue would stay in the community.

(Here are the numbers: According to the 3/50 Project, “For every $100 you spend at an independent brick and mortar store, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures.”)

“Here’s what you just did” is another good project put out by IndieBound that tells shoppers how they helped out their community by shopping local.

Changing gears a little, let’s talk about how Little Shop is surviving all the changes in the publishing industry. Have you had to respond to the demand for ebooks?

Yes. We are currently going through the process of selling ebooks through Google Books on our website. It’s been a long process and it’s not ready yet, but we’re almost there.

Have customers asked for this service?

They haven’t so much as asked us as we hear them saying they’ll just download the book later. It [Google Books] is mainly for the adult books, not so much for kids’ books.

I noticed your adult books; they seemed to be a really varied, interesting selection. How do you buy adult books for a children’s bookstore?

Our main rule is quality over quantity. It’s an eclectic mix; we don’t just go for the New York Times Bestsellers. We pick what we think the parents who come in here will actually enjoy reading. We buy a lot of the books featured on NPR.

How do you feel about social media?

I think social media is super important. We are active. We’re on Facebook and Twitter (me, not so much, but I’m getting better!). We also have a great book blog. These days it would be really hard to be an event space without it. It [Facebook and Twitter] helps keep us connected with that wider community.

It seems like bookstores can no longer be simply a store that sells books. Do you feel Little Shop has had to transform itself in order to adapt to the changing times in the book industry?

One reason we’re still around is because we’ve always been more than just a bookstore. We host birthday parties, we have story time, we’re a place where families come to hang out. We also host summer camps, book clubs and lots of special events. From the beginning we set ourselves up as a community center.

A gaggle of loyal Little Shop customers.

Thanks, Krista! See you at the Festival! 

(Photos by Rob Herrema and For the Love of Bookshops)

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