A new independent (“indie”) bookstore will open Aug. 11 at its location on the corner of North 10th and B Streets in Brunwick Place. Called Bookish: An Indie Shop for Folks Who Read, the site’s a little different from what Fort Smith readers might be accustomed to through existing used and big-box bookstores.
Bookish will offer “a well-curated selection of new books, gift items, and children’s products” and will host a number of events in its first few months, including “author signings, book club meetings, writing and other creative workshops, literary lunches, and special dinner events,” according to an email from Bookish co-founder Jennifer Battles.
Battles spent 15 years in the classroom as an English teacher, with 14 of those in the Alma School District teaching middle school language arts, 10th-grade English, pre-AP English, 11th-grade English, and Advanced Placement Language and Composition (APLAC).
Co-founder Sara Putman also is a former classroom teacher with 15 years of experience. She also comes to Bookish from the Alma School District where she taught 9th-grade English, Composition I and II, and AP Literature and Composition. Both women hold master’s degrees, something Battles noted makes them equipped to tailor selections to their customer base.
“We are able to distinguish between what they want in their next book — a lighthearted read, or a book to challenge their thinking — and give them options from which to make their purchase,” Battles said.
Putman added: “As avid readers ourselves, we are abreast of current writers and new releases. We have studied the classics. We even have a dedicated children’s literature specialist, Jennifer’s mother, who taught elementary school for 42 years and has a master’s degree in reading.”
Independent bookstores like Bookish have experienced something of a resurgence since 2009, with the number increasing by around 40% to 2,321 from 1,651, according to a report from the American Booksellers Association. While the number remains low from a pinnacle of more than 4,000 stores in the 1990s, the trend is positive, and it’s been going nine years-strong in spite of competition from Amazon’s digital sales and mass market strongholds.
“The biggest challenge facing independent bookstores is competition from mass marketers. Small bookstores cannot compete with the deep discounts offered by Amazon and other large retailers, but Bookish can compete by serving a local market and offering specialized products,” Battles said.
As proof, she points to the growing movement to shop locally, noting that “consumers are more loyal than ever to their favorite small businesses.” She also quotes Jessica Bagluno, owner of Greenlight Books in New York, who observed that “communities that support a Farmer’s Market will also support an independent bookstore.”
“Fort Smith has enjoyed a thriving Farmer’s Market for over two years,” Battles said.
Regular business hours for Bookish will be Monday through Thursday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and Friday and Saturday, 10-7. Opening festivities and scheduled events will be announced through the Bookish website.