On Buying Local

I was a giant book nerd at an early age. I can still remember the feeling of walking into the cool, quiet library on a hot summer day. I remember the smell of old bookstores. I remember the hours I spent in my bedroom reading, sometimes the same favorites, over and over again.

Some of my favorite things to do even now, are to find local bookstores. I particularly like the used ones, with creaky old wooden floors and the smell of old pages.

That’s not to say I can’t appreciate a big chain bookstore as much as the next person, I find just about everything I want in those, however, there is much to be said for buying local.

Sometimes we hear “buy local” and immediately think about where we buy our food. And that’s true. But it’s also true of everything we buy. For many great reasons to buy local, check out this article. Why Buy Locally Owned? on www.sustainableconnections.org.

One of the best reasons I can think to buy local, is that it supports the unique businesses only your town can offer. There are reasons we seek out local shops and restaurants when we travel. It’s because it’s not like home; the whole point of traveling.

Here in Nashville, we have an amazing independently owned local bookstore, Parnassus Books. If you live here, and haven’t gone, you must. And if you ever visit Nashville, you must go (it’s right down the road from The Bluebird Cafe, which for many of you, would be on your list anyway).

Parnassus Books reminds me of the book stores we went to years ago, before the big box stores moved in. The staff is there because of their love of reading, and will recommend fantastic books, regardless of their best seller status.

Last night, my daughter and I had the opportunity to go to a book signing at Parnassus Books. One of my favorite authors, Dorothea Benton Frank, was doing a book signing of her latest release, All The Single Ladies.



I first read Dorothea Benton Frank over ten years ago, her first novel, Sullivan’s Island, got me hooked on her stories, each set in and around Charleston, South Carolina.


Needless to say, I was thrilled to meet her (though I didn’t say much, because I got so tongue-tied). She is just as delightful as I’d imagined. As is the store’s founder and best-selling author, Ann Patchett (whom I was too starstruck to actually try to speak to). If you haven’t read any of Ann Patchett’s work, you’ve most likely heard of it (Bel Canto, State of Wonder, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage) and I highly recommend you read her.

When you buy local, you’re paying for stores like this to exist (so book nerds like me can meet their favorite authors). You’re paying for a shop owner to remain self-employed and realize their dream. You’re supporting the flow of money to stay within your own community, so that it can remain vibrant and unique.

When I think about the places we all love to visit; Austin, TX, Bar Harbor, ME, Asheville, NC, Napa Valley, Kauai, or the parts of larger cities we seek out, they’re the areas that lack large chains and franchises. They have a soul all their own.

I’d love to hear what and where some of your favorite local stores are, or what farmer’s markets you shop at. I’d especially love to hear about any independently owned book stores you may have discovered here in the States (there aren’t many left!).

Leave me a message here, or hop on over to twitter and hit me up at @jessbarretttn.

4 thoughts on “On Buying Local

  1. I too have bookstore nostalgia. I fear for the furthered existence though. Even the chain bookstores are becoming extinct. (Does anybody remember Border’s Books?) Our local bookseller, Schuler’s Books, last year closed one of the three branches they had and, while I scampered over and picked the corpse clean of 50-75% reduced items, I was very sad to see it go. If you are ever in the Grand Rapids, MI area, I highly recommend you visit before the last two go the way of the Dodo: http://www.schulerbooks.com/

    1. There is a bookstore and champagne bar combination in Asheville, NC. I can’t think of a better idea anywhere in human history, yet I fear that it, too, won’t last. I’m sad that libraries are facing the same. I really would love to take up this cause, “save our bookstores!”, but how?

      1. The obvious solution–buy more books–would require me taking out a loan to build an attached library to my already book infested house.

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