Used book store a success story in Lafayette
LAFAYETTE — Growing up, Deirdre Appelhans’ grandmother was a children’s author, and her father had a love of books. Wherever she lived or traveled as a kid, her family would take her to used book stores. That gave her a love of reading that she would carry into her adult life.
“I do love books,” Appelhans said. “I’m one of those people who thinks of books as friends. They had a huge part in my life. I spent a tremendous amount of time in used book stores growing up. There used to be a lot more of them.”
So when iconic Louisville used book store The Book Cellar closed in 2019, Appelhans wanted to do something about it, to preserve the kind of used book store in the area that she would want to visit. She enlisted her longtime friend Barbara Huntting as a business partner, and the two purchased The Book Cellar’s inventory and naming rights.
“She asked if I wanted a business partner,” Appelhans said. “I said ‘yes.’ It really was as simple as that. We went on a gut feeling and jumped with the faith that we were going to land.”
Appelhans and Huntting found space at 129 N. Harrison Ave. in Lafayette, an old house that had never been used for retail before. The more than 100-year-old building needed extensive renovations, including mostly gutting the interior, before the new bookstore could open.
Once the remodeling was complete, Appelhans and Huntting were getting ready to open when they faced another obstacle: the government shutdown of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was terrifying because we spent all this time remodeling this building,” Appelhans said. “We felt like this couldn’t be how it ends.”
Once their store — now named The Read Queen — was finally able to open the day before Father’s Day in 2020, the results were apparent.
“In fact, people do read books,” Appelhans said. “People really love books. There’s a place for electronic readers, but people really do like reading a book.”
Their location in Old Town Lafayette meant The Read (pronounced “red”) Queen was in prime position to capture foot traffic, and word of mouth started to spread.
“Word of mouth was so key,” Appelhans said. “We saw just wonderful community support. Kids riding bikes, coming in and buying books, then reading on the porch. A lot of people started walking to the store. That’s when we felt like we have something that people really, really want. A place to go, a place they can see books and have a community meeting place. That was very heartwarming.”
In addition to books, The Read Queen also has a cafe that serves coffee, espresso, tea, cakes, scones and other baked goods. They also sell goods and gifts.
They’ve started ramping up the events they host, as well. The store expanded to have a reading lounge in the back where they host a book club. During Lafayette’s summer Art Night Out event series, The Read Queen hosted art workshops with local artists.
They’re also working with East Simpson Coffee Co., located across the street, to start a Lafayette Harvest Festival. That is slated to kick off Oct. 29.
And in the meantime, they’ll continue to be a proof of the concept that people will still support a used book store.
“It’s just so fun,” Appelhans said. “When I’m there every day, I’m surrounded by people who want to be there and are excited and happy to be there. My job is to find fun, cool, neat things to put in the store and talk to people who are happy. It’s an amazing job.”