When Fran White decided to retire and close Lemuria after 23 years, Robert and Janice Maddox knew exactly what they were going to do — expand their book store into the space where Lemuria used to be.
The Maddoxes have owned A Novel Bookstore for 11 years, and had been biding their time on the expansion, knowing that White was getting ready for retirement, Robert Maddox said. After all, the store has close to 60,000 books that the Maddoxes were trying to fit in just the one storefront.
“Fran finally decided to retire and we had been thinking about expanding, so we decided to go for it,” he said. “It seemed like good timing — the Christmas season. Within a week after she finished, we cut a hole between the shops and started working on stuff.”
In fact, they threw a work party on Thanksgiving day.
“We spent Thanksgiving here with friends who helped us to move books around and build shelves,” Janice Maddox said. “So we had our Thanksgiving dinner right here in the bookstore.”
Robert Maddox added that they had their turkey outside in a smoker.
The work party had 10 people in attendance — five adults and five kids — the youngest being 12.
“The youngest was working on the kids section with her mom, and she’s a avid reader so she was organizing everything and it was actually a really big help,” Robert Maddox said.
He said they aren’t just expanding for more book space. They also want to be able to hold some events, do some community activities to support the arts.
On Tuesdays, A Novel Bookstore is going to host a creative-writer’s-assistance class, Robert Maddox said. The leader of the group helps people break out of writer’s block if they’re stuck by randomizing prompts or art for the writers to pen about. Writers Assistance meets at 6 p.m. each Tuesday at the bookstore, which is located near JZ Rose and Shine Specialties.
An artist, Robert Maddox will be hosting a weekly art activity for all skill levels called Doodle 101 at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at the bookstore.
And in honor of the expansion, all books will be buy one, get one free until Dec. 15.
The Maddoxes wish to be the host venue for local writers groups and the like, making sure that complimentary coffee will be available for each group’s enjoyment.
Also, A Novel Bookstore is now carrying True Blue Herbs, a popular line of herbal tinctures that used to be carried at Lemuria.
“During the month of December Karen is offering a free gift to all of her True Blue Herbs customers,” Janice Maddox said, adding that the free gift is a tincture itself.
The Maddoxes said they run a bookstore in the age of the ebook because they love the service they can provide to people. They are willing to speak with a customer about any story or nonfiction book he or she is experiencing and will help readers find another author once all the books from a single writer have been consumed.
“A lot of people who have been lifelong readers really appreciate a bookstore,” Janice Maddox said. “They appreciate going into a bookstore, feeling the books. We know there are Kindles out there and everything, but they still appreciate having that book in their hand. We understand that, because we feel the same way. We’re hoping the independent bookstores can stick around for that community of people.”
Robert Maddox said that he isn’t too worried about the possible collapse of the printed word.
“They predicted the end of books when the radio came out, and then when television came out, then when the internet came out, so we’re not really worried about it,” he said. “Certainly people find ebooks handy, but many people are not excited as they were about ebooks. We went down for a few years when ebooks came out, but we’re doing better every year now.”
Over the years, the Maddoxes have put together a large non-fiction selection to rival their fiction genres. They have so many history books that they have arranged them in a timeline from ancient history forward.
This timeline stretches across the top of several shelves. Robert Maddox said that people are so happy to see such a large selection of history books that they don’t mind climbing a ladder to find their latest time-travel destination.
Janice Maddox said she thinks that people like to read history to escape aspects of the present.
“If you think about the present and the media and everything, that’s just happening now and it’s kind of grim,” she said. “But if you read historical things, you get different pictures in your mind about how history has played out. Some of it’s great and some of it’s not so great. But people can expand their minds to not just this environment but the whole world.”
Besides history books, A Novel Bookstore boasts collections of metaphysics, automotive, cooking, gardening, social, political, economic, religion, brain science, recovery, phycology, alchemy and more.
For the Maddoxes, it all comes down to a love of reading.
“I’ve always been in love with books,” Robert Maddox said. “I had a librarian in third grade hand me the first book in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ and I never looked back… I don’t read particularly fast, but I love to read because I love the images that reading generates, and they’re different for each person. I mean it’s beautiful to me that literature evokes imagery.
“As a artist, that’s inspiration for my artwork as well,” he continued. “The world’s a better place when people read. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Robert and Janice Maddox don’t just foster their own love for reading, they have also encouraged it in the lives of their children, not to mention their customers.
“We homeschooled our kids for a couple years in the very beginning, so they kind of grew up in this bookstore helping us,” Janice Maddox said. “I think that is really important for children and young people to keep reading, so I really enjoy having a bookstore where people can discover reading.”