Independent bookstore to replace Booksellers at Laurelwood

One of the city’s most popular bookstores, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, shut down in February at the Laurelwood Shopping Center on Poplar Avenue in East Memphis. That same space will welcome a new bookstore, Novel, for a grand opening by late summer.

“The previous store was never the problem over the years, it was always the operation of it,” said Cory Prewitt, COO and marketing director for Laurelwood Shopping Center. “We knew that a bookstore was profitable and viable. It’s something that city our size definitely needs and deserves. I hope it stays open forever this time because it’s owned by the right people.”

The 20,000-square-foot space opened as a Davis-Kidd bookstore and later converted to an independently-owned shop. The retail space will be trimmed with approximately 10,000 square feet for the bookstore, 3,100 square feet for a café and 7,000 square feet that will be leased to another tenant to be named later.

“We’re getting rid of a lot of the unnecessary items like DVDs and CDs that took up a ton of space and just didn’t make any sense,” said Prewitt. “So it will be a more compact store, but I think it will be a more efficient store.”

The store will also sell magazines, and Prewitt expects to see mostly local products sold as sideline items. The previous store had a merchandise buyer that did not live in Memphis.

“I think we’ll have a huge advantage from having our buying in Memphis, and the people who have worked there for 30 years will be making the decisions rather than somebody in a different city,” said Prewitt.

Archimania and the U. of M. Architecture Department are working on designs for the new space. Many former employees will return to work at the new store. 

“A lot of those people worked there for 25 to 30 years, so they were the store. They know books, and it’s hard to find that kind of personable knowledge these days,” said Prewitt. “I thought they got a raw deal with the liquidation, and we wanted to make things right.”

Novel’s lease is for five years with an option.

Construction should get underway in the next two to three weeks, and a grand opening is slated for August 1.

Prewitt expects to see some increased foot traffic from the new Nordstrom Rack development going in adjacent to Laurelwood, which has spent roughly $1 million on construction in the past year.

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Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.