This Saturday, Louisvillians can take a brief break from Derby fever and turn their festive minds toward another local treasure, as Carmichael’s Bookstore celebrates Independent Bookstore Day with a variety of activities, including a scavenger hunt, appearances by local authors and an array of special Independent Bookstore Day merch.
Kelly Estep, manager of the Carmichael’s Bardstown Road store and Carmichael’s Kids, was joined by Rebecca Bernstein, events coordinator at Carmichael’s Kids, and the two gave Insider Louisville the lowdown in a recent interview.
Estep says the special event grew from the independent bookstore scene in California.
“They are lucky enough to have an independent organization out there that’s really sort of vibrant,” she says. “Some smart person said, ‘We should celebrate this,’ and they did it with California Bookstore Day.”
The event was successful, and the idea quickly spread.
“The independent book store industry is extremely tight knit, and there is very little proprietary stuff going on,” adds Estep. “We all share ideas with one another.”
Estep also notes that the success of Record Store Day encouraged bookstores to take a chance on the idea.
Now in its second year, she says the event is expanding and getting more attention from publishers. “They had more traction with the publishers and with authors to say, ‘This was a success. Don’t you want to be a part of it?’”
Apparently they do, as Carmichael’s has an array of special merchandise to offer this Saturday. Estep says the hot-ticket items can vary from store to store, but she has some pretty strong ideas about what will be popular. In fact, some people have already shown up trying to get their hands on the special merch.
“I already had some people who were confused about the date who came in on the last day of March, at 8 o’clock in the morning, wanting their Neil Gaiman book,” she says. Gaiman, a best-selling fantasy author with a passionate fandom, has created a coloring book for Independent Bookstore Day. Supplies are limited.
Estep says that kind of support from authors is great, citing their social media prowess and ability to generate excitement. “It’s always great to have somebody like that on board to do things.”
She suspects other popular items will include an original book from Ann Patchett titled “A $6 Story: The Care & Feeding of an Independent Bookstore,” and Anthony Bourdain’s “Perfect Burger Print,” both of which come signed.
But the day isn’t just about tracking down collector’s items. Carmichael’s is offering tons of activities, including food tastings with local chef Ed Lee and cocktails with The Bar Belle, aka Insider’s Sara Havens.
And a scavenger hunt. Ya’ll, there’s a scavenger hunt! I know I’m not the only person who gets excited about these things.
The scavenger hunt is based off the best-selling children’s book “Rad American Women A-Z.” It’s been a popular book, says Bernstein, who is organizing the hunt.
“There are so many people who have come in and are, like, ‘Thank you, my daughter needs to know this, my son needs to know this, I need to know this,’” she says.
The book features 26 bold images, one for each letter of the alphabet. Bernstein has chosen five images of women from the book to hide in each Carmichael’s store. That’s right — it’s an inter-store scavenger hunt! The winner will receive a gift certificate, but Bernstein says winning isn’t the only reason to compete. “(It’s) going to be really fun, not only because it’s fun to find things, but because then you can start conversations.”
Dark times for bookstores have been prophesied for years, but Bernstein says the gloom and doom is unfounded.
“(It) simply isn’t true.” She points to that very ability to start conversations as being one of the things keeping bookstores strong. “Independent bookstores especially are a places of learning and meeting and finding things — and the celebration of learning that comes from being in a place of books.”
Bernstein also points to involvement in local community as being something that has has helped Carmichael’s stay strong. “We’re one of the founding members of LIBA,” she says. “I think we’ve built our place in the community because we are so focused on independent business that makes it easy to reach out to people.”
Independent Bookstore Day takes place from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. at Carmichael’s Bookstore, 2720 Frankfort Ave. For a full list of special merchandise, including a vinyl records based on the book of “Rad American Women,” and activities, check the Carmichael’s website.
And if Saturday doesn’t slake your thirst for bookstore scavenger hunts, head back to Carmichael’s the first week in May for Children’s Book Week for more scavenging.