It’s a normal, albeit stormy Saturday night. Bardstown Road is busy as usual — people are milling about and cars line both sides of the street. Carmichael’s Bookstore, a safe haven for those trying to find a spot away from the hustle and maybe try to find a good book, is glowing from the street.
A block away, separated by a PNC Bank, is a dark store. Plush animals, toys and books fill the window displays. An old-fashioned wooden hanging sign featuring the Carmichael’s name hangs outside of the shop. One week later, that dark store — the newest addition to the Carmichael’s legacy, Carmichael’s Kids — will be celebrating its first day of operation.
For new Carmichael’s Kids manager Kelly Estep, the road to the children’s-only store has been a long one.
“I have thought for years that if I could expand any section of the Bardstown Road location, it would be the children’s section,” says Estep. “Even though it is small, we have always sold children’s books so well out of that section, and I really felt like we had the support to have a separate, larger store. Since we would not move our store from the fabulous location it is in currently, the only option was a separate annex.”
Timing is everything, and the realization of Carmichael’s Kids is no different. “The main reason we actually turned our wish into a reality is because the perfect space became available,” explains Carol Besse, co-founder of Carmichael’s Bookstores. “We wanted a space that was within a very short distance of one of our current stores so people wouldn’t have to travel to another location to shop for both adult and children’s books.”
The perfect space she refers to is 1313 Bardstown Road, steps away from their current Highlands store at 1295 Bardstown Road. The new store will house all children’s and middle-grades books. Since the new space allows Carmichael’s to quadruple the size of their current children’s area, expect to see some new toys, games, puzzles and plushes.
Estep has worked for the past 15 years as children’s buyer at Carmichael’s, but that isn’t the only experience she has selecting titles for kids: She also has a 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. For her, children’s books can be magical.
“It opens up worlds to children who would never have those real-world experiences,” says Estep. “The excitement you see in a young person’s eyes when they know their favorite author has a new book is so fabulous!”
Carmichael’s intimate, family-run nature has brought in customers for the past 36 years. Besse hopes things won’t change with the new store.
“A children’s store gives us an even greater opportunity to do what we do best — connect books and readers,” she says. “It can be difficult for a grandmother or an uncle who wants to buy a book for a child they don’t know intimately to find a book that is not only interesting but age-appropriate. That’s where our advice can really help. And you just can’t get that online.”
Although the official grand opening was on Aug. 2, there are still festivities to attend. The main event, a street-shutting-down grand opening block party, will be on Sunday afternoon. Their portion of Longest Avenue will be closed to cars between noon and 5 p.m.
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