Eventful Carmichael’s

Carmichaels3The physical bookstore seems to be making a renaissance of late. More and more, people seek the warm personal touch of a knowledgeable employee in the place of detached star ratings and cursory reviews. The competition with the convenience of online retailers is still fierce, but indie bookstores across the nation are flourishing in a climate fanned to life by a yearning for a more communal connection to the literary world. This trend certainly seems to be holding true for Louisville’s oldest independent purveyor of books: Carmichael’s.

Carol Besse and Michael Boggs first opened  the doors of Carmichael’s 38 years ago. They used their first names to form a portmanteau title for their bookstore, and it has remained family-owned and run ever since, boasting three separate locations as of the opening of Carmichael’s Kids in 2014. Their stalwart mission has been to supply the Louisville community with a diverse selection of literature for readers of all ages as well as a knowledgeable and gregarious staff.

As alluring as those resources are, they don’t mean much on their own, especially when potential customers are unaware of them. One solution that Carmichael’s has arrived at to combat the issue is the creation of events to engage their customers and the larger Louisville community. Kelsey Thompson serves as Carmichael’s events and community outreach coordinator, and one would be hard-pressed to find a more committed and enthusiastic person for the position: “My job is pretty exciting in that I get to work with several of these local writers, as well as some non-local, to help get the word out there about their work. These events are such a vital part of what makes Carmichael’s so special to this community, and I’m thrilled to play a role in that.”

As previously mentioned, Thompson often organizes events having to do with the marketing of new books by writers both local and non-local. “Generally, we’re approached by a writer or publisher who is interested in having an event at our store. Once we’ve decided that an event is something that we’re interested in doing, we get the author on our calendar, and we take it from there,” she says. Thompson goes on to say that in events such as these, Carmichael’s is happy to remain the facilitator for the author and what he or she has to say about their work. “Oftentimes, an author will have a presentation of some kind, a discussion, question-and-answer session, a lecture, etc. followed by a book signing. The book signing is great because audience members will get a chance to personally meet the writer and take home not only a signed book but a memory that they will forever associate with it,” informs Thompson.

Thompson also often collaborates with Rebecca Bernstein, the events coordinator at Carmichael’s Kids, on events that are more geared toward children and exposing them to classic children’s literature. “We’ve hosted Harvey’s House Rabbit Rescue to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Pat the Bunny, a very successful Harry Potter party and our annual Polar Express Party – this year’s being held at the Kentucky Science Center with special guest author Chris Van Allsburg,” she says. That’s certainly exciting and appropriately full of the flair and zest for imagination that children require at an impressionable age to spark a lifelong love for reading.

A recent event was held at Carmichael’s Kids on January 16 at 11 a.m. “Sara Soltau, education programs manager at Classical 90.5, used ‘The Story of Ferdinand the Bull’ to lead a musical storytelling workshop. This workshop gave the kids participating an opportunity to have their voices recorded and later heard on the radio!” says Thompson excitedly. And the events don’t stop there: Ryan Clark and Joe Cox will do a presentation and book signing of their “The Kentucky Wildcats Fans’ Bucketlist” on January 28; Bob and Vicky Ullrich will similarly present their work, “Germans in Louisville” – a popular item this holiday season according to Thompson – on February 4; and on February 11, Garth Greenwell will present, discuss and sign his debut novel, “What Belongs to You.” Publishers Weekly calls it “the first great novel of 2016,” so it is an event that should not be missed.

With an event calendar as full and diverse as that, it’s no wonder that Carmichael’s is still succeeding. We should all aspire to read more in 2016, so what are you waiting for? Pick a date, walk into a Carmichael’s and step into world of fresh, new and exciting knowledge. VT