Owning an independent book store is hard work. Especially if your store is tucked away inside Town and Country Shopping Center where patrons are few and far between. But according to Glenda Hall, who runs Book Notes of Pikeville with her son, the job is well worth its struggles.
Book Notes has now been operating for 15 and a half years in their current location. Before Book Notes, the location was used as another book store (and possibly a doctor’s office long before that).
“We just love books, so it seemed like the logical next step,” Hall said while reminiscing. “We took this place when we started because it had been a book store before. We thought that would make it easier, but it took us a lot of hard work to get everything fixed up.”
The process has been sort of magical at times. The pair has met countless authors from around the country, and they’ve also had the opportunity to support local authors in their careers. Most notably, Robert Morgan, author of Boone, kicked off his national book tour at Book Notes a few years back.
“When we get these national authors in, sometimes we will have lines of people waiting into the parking lot to get their books signed,” Glenda said. “We always try to make it a memorable experience for the authors as well as the patrons.”
And according to Glenda, the best part of her job, besides the books, is the people she gets to meet.
“We love it when people come in and look around, even if they don’t buy anything,” Glenda said. “We don’t have as many books as bigger stores, but if you let us know what you’re looking for, even if we don’t have it, in most cases we can recommend something similar.”
Glenda and her son even grow close to some of their regular customers, keeping their shelves stocked for their particular interests.
“I think that’s what separates us from these bigger, chain owned stores,” Glenda said. “We know the people. We know what they like. And we especially know books! I don’t know if that’s a requirement for working in a chain store, but from some of my experiences, it seems like maybe not.”
The Halls even give special treatment to some of their most loyal customers (and eventual friends) who may have trouble making it out of the house to the bookstore to get a new book. Dr. Mary Fox, for example, has recently had difficulty making it to the store. Glenda delivers Dr. Fox a book whenever she needs one, and while she’s there, she sits and visits with her as well.
“I think good customer service is very important in what we do,” Glenda said.
However, it hasn’t always been an easy road. Despite bringing in local and national authors for book signings, keeping a fresh stock of books always on hand, and seasonally decorating their store front to entice customers, the Halls have a difficult time keeping patrons in their store.
“It’s the most discouraging part of what we do,” Hall said. “We both love books and the people we work with, but that part is difficult sometimes.”
Glenda believes it is important to support local businesses. Her family works hard to do that in their personal lives, but she doesn’t see that reciprocated by many of the people in Pike county.
“I’ve heard some people say they would like to have a bigger book store in the area. Like a Barnes & Noble or something. But how do they expect a Barnes & Noble to succeed when a lot of people won’t even support the local book store,” Hall said.
Glenda and her son, who run the store together, have a clear and vast knowledge of books. Everything from mysteries to romance to literature and much more.
“It’s not something to do if you want to get rich,” Glenda said. “But we do it because we believe every person in the world should have access to a book store. That’s something each person should have a right to.”
Glenda and her son still have dreams. Dreams of owning a bigger store with an early century aesthetic with a conjoined coffee shop or a “made in Kentucky” souvenir stop. But until those dreams are realized, the Halls are perfectly content serving the people of Pikeville where they are. They have no plans of giving that up anytime soon.
Karissa Blackburn is a news reporter for the Pike County Post. She can be contacted at email@example.com or at 304-784-7329.