Sunday, March 26, 2023

Union Avenue Books - Knoxville, TN

Union Avenue Books, Knoxville, TN

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

As I browsed through this wonderful bookstore located in the heart of downtown Knoxville I couldn't help but think what a valuable asset it would be to others who might like to open their own bookstore.  The store has been around for about 12 years so they have experience.  They're clearly successful with good staying power.  The people I met on this day were awesome and I'm sure the rest of the staff is the same.  Flossie one of the co-owners along with daughter Bunnie is an experienced bookstore owner having owned one previously.  Especially if you're in the Smoky Mountains region, these would be good people to advise and mentor someone about bookstore ownership.

But there are some advantages here that can't be duplicated.  Knoxville has a population of approximately 780,000 which means a strong, built-in customer base.  On top of that, it is home to the large University of Tennessee.  It is a 10 minute walk from campus to the bookstore and many from the university community frequent the store.  They also enjoy tourist regulars who annually visit this region.  For those of you who are regulars, you should definitely join the customer rewards program offered.  

Union Avenue stocks all new books and one of my favorite things here are the numerous table displays.  I think this REALLY makes for a great browsing experience.  Of course, if you can't make it here in person consider purchasing a book online, something that helped carry the store through the pandemic.  This indie offers a wide variety of sidelines including greeting cards, journals, candles, and much more too numerous to mention.  But as book buyer Chelsea B. told me, the stickers are so hot they can't keep them in stock.

Like most of my visits, the people here are the best.  Chelsea and Leo C., a bookseller, were welcoming, knowledgeable, and an absolute blast to meet and talk to.  And as you know, you'll never have an experience like this when you purchase from an online retailer.

To my readers who are travelers, put this on your "must-see" list when in Knoxville.  To those of you in Knoxville, if you've never been here you need to wake-up and smell the coffee.  A fabulous bookstore experience is right under your noses in downtown Knoxville.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Rules Of Civility, Amor Towles.  A year in the life of young professionals, 1938, New York City.  Their lives, their professions, the parties, their dreams, their relationships, and the struggle to run with the in crowd.  Focuses on the life of a young woman, Katey Kontent.  NYC is as much a character in this book as the people.  I liked it but if you want to try something by this author, I recommend and thoroughly enjoyed The Lincoln Highway. 

CURRENTLY READING:  Dakota, Martha Grimes. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Traces, Patricia L. Hudson.  In Memoriam, Alice Winn.  God, Grace, And Horses, Laurie M. Brock.  

A beautiful storefront in downtown Knoxville. 

Just a small portion of the display window space. 

For all you Union Ave regulars, keep your eyes open for these. 

I really don't need any encouragement. 

View looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Looking directly to the right from the front entrance. 

Attractive table display to greet you as you enter. 

I always enjoy seeing the staff picks display. 

If you're in the Knoxville area, consider joining the store book club.

Books are displayed covers out as much as possible at this indie.  Either on shelves or tables. 

Looking directly to the left from the main entrance.  Through that archway is another room which is a recent addition. 

One of the book nooks. 

A double-decker table display. 

Partial view of the children's area. 

I was impressed by the multiple table displays.  Seeing the covers is one more lure to encourage my book-buying!

Fantastic set-up for browsing. 

I wish every bookstore could offer this. 

Overview looking into the additional room. 

Just a few of the greeting cards offered. 

A different line of candles that I haven't noticed on previous bookstore visits. 

A few of the items of local and regional interest, clearly marked.

Overview of the additional room looking from the back toward the front of the store. 

Are you one of those people who waits a few months to get your 2023 calendar to save some money?  Union Ave has you covered. 

If you're away from home and lost your readers, you're in luck.  Get your new pair here. 

If you're in Tennessee, you need a Dolly Parton sticker. 

Overview of the main room looking from the back toward the front entrance. 

Another promotion that I wish every indie could offer. 

I have been in many bookstores on the day new books are delivered and I love it.  WOO HOO!!!

With Chelsea, the fine book buyer at Union Avenue Books.  Thanks for a great visit. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Read Spotted Newt - Hazard, KY

Read Spotted Newt, Hazard, KY

(Like The Indie Bob Spot on Facebook and follow The Indie Bob Spot on Twitter)

There are many things that contribute to the success of a bookstore but I was most amazed to hear about the beginnings of Read Spotted Newt (pronounced "red", not "reed," OBVIOUSLY) from owner Mandi F.S.  This indie has been open for three years but at the start it had horrible luck.  Or did it?  To most, a flood and a pandemic would be a death knell but it was just the opposite here.  Read Spotted Newt not only survived but thrived thanks to a deluge of local publicity.  As Mandi told me, during those days she felt like someone was shoving a mic in her face all the time, asking about the store and its challenges.  The result was a mountain of free publicity for a determined store and owner, with the store relocating to a new space.  They survived the pandemic with the same formula as many other indies.  Phone orders, online orders, and enlarging Facebook photos of the store to see the book titles they wanted to order.  And lots of puzzles.  Good grief, if Read Spotted Newt can survive all that I'd say the future is nothing but bright.   

I've been following this bookstore ever since they opened for two reasons.  Their name (I love it), and the uniqueness of the building.  The store is located on a prominent corner as you enter the town and was originally The Hazard Welcome Center.  Those two things aside, once you visit the store and meet Mandi and Warner, a bookseller, your impressions and experience will take off.  In this case, you CAN judge a book by its cover!  A beautiful, cozy and comfy space with mostly new books and a few used.  The books of regional interest sell especially well.  Its a smaller space but does not feel crowded at all.  Despite the size, the sidelines are plentiful and include greeting cards, bookstore swag, and jewelry to name a few.  The stickers sell well as do the Tarot cards which is surprising given the stores' location in the Appalachian Bible belt.

Before Mandi started this business she was a stay-at-home mom with a background and degrees that have NOTHING to do with bookstores.  You'll want to follow her because in addition to owning a bookstore she's a promising author.  What a wonderful benefit for Hazard (population approximately 5000) and the surrounding communities to have this resource in a region where there is nothing else like it.  Congratulations Mandi!  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Rules Of Civility, Amor Towles. 

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  Appalachian Reckoning, Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll.  


I think this store has a gorgeous setting and it is probably even more so in the summer and fall seasons.  On the corner nestled inside a small bluff on the edge of downtown. 

Closer view of the store.  Notice the "welcome" sign atop the building.  What a great sign for any bookstore but honesty compels me to tell you that was already there when the building was the Hazard Welcome Center. 

A very creative bench outside the store. 

Everyone needs to be reminded of this. 

View looking into the store from the front entrance. 

Take a look below the checkout counter when you purchase a book.  I think you could use a beverage and a treat. 

Like everywhere else I've been lately, the stickers are hot. 

Looking to the right from the store entrance. 

Relevant display for the approaching Easter season. 

If I were a regular at this store, one of these seats would be my usual spot. 

Popular sellers for the store. 

I can usually find unique and locally created items in many bookstores. 

If you call yourself a University of Kentucky fan you'll need to consider this book. 

Very unique earrings. 

Current non-fiction display. 

These literary candles are a popular sideline in many bookstores. 

A variety of books and sidelines displayed.  Behind this display is the children's area. 

I love these stickers. 


Just a few of the greeting cards offered.

Looking into the children's area.  They have their own room in the back of the store. 

One more activity for the children who come to the store. 

The red spotted newt!

Another overview of the children's area. 

View of the store looking from the back toward the front entrance.  Notice all the window space for excellent natural lighting.  Warner is at the front counter waiting for your purchase. 

With Mandi, the fine owner at Read Spotted Newt.  Thanks for a great visit.