Kelly Justice owns Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, which opened in 1978. Its 1867 building has hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and natural wood shelves. It looks so much like a classic independent bookstore that when author Kelly Corrigan visited (as reported in Bookselling This Week), she said: “This is the reason people quit their jobs and open a bookstore. This is what they imagine.”
What is Fountain Bookstore famous for?
Our big mouths, maybe? When people come to visit us that have only met us online or heard of us from others, they invariably say: “Wow! We thought you’d be bigger.” (Which is not something anyone wants to hear, really. So, we’d appreciate it if you’d keep that to yourselves.) Then the newbie gets a few more feet in the door and realizes that it’s the Fountain Bookstore experience that’s big, not the shop. We’re 1,000-square-feet of supercharged bookselling. We don’t have all the books in the world, but we definitely have the one you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
With a staff of five, we [held events or signings] with over 225 authors last year and are on track to do about the same this year. And we have a heck of a lot of fun doing it. I think that is what people feel when they come to us, whether it’s in the shop or online.
Which was your favorite all-time event and why?
You know, it’s hard to beat Anthony Bourdain. What a gracious, generous-of-spirit individual. Within two minutes backstage with the crew, we were done with introductions and happily discussing public nudity. And we made so many people happy that night. He is so good to his fans and all the service people involved. And any time I can do food and books at the same time, I’m a happy bookseller. They are equal passions for me.
What is your favorite spot/section of the store?
Our 100-square-foot children’s section. I love all the colors. And I like the two autographed copies sections. They are pretty big, and they are filled with happy memories.
According to the American Booksellers Association, indie bookstores have increased their numbers in the past five years. What gives your bookstore and indies in general their staying power?
I think our customers feel like they are part of something. In on a secret. A club where everyone is welcome.
We have really embraced our online customers as part of the Fountain family, too. We want them to feel that they are in the club as well, whether they are in Boise or Bolivia or shopping in their pj’s right here in Richmond.
What are some of the bookstore’s top current handsells?
I am selling the Thieftaker series by D.B. Jackson (aka David B. Coe) by the bucket! I love them! Remember the first time you watched Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater? That’s what it feels like. It’s that ride.
We are also selling the heck out of the Last Policeman trilogy by Ben Winters, but only to some customers. A lot of people can’t handle that level of dark or just can’t do it right now because of whatever. Life. It was rough on all the booksellers here who tried it, but we really think it’s something remarkable. Puts you in a really weird place. For the readers who are up for it, we really feel like we’ve been through something together.
All of our locals we love selling. Our easiest local for me is The Southern Slow Cooker by Kendra Bailey Morris. She has somehow miraculously disappeared the cooked-to-death, bland flavor that results from most slow cooker recipes. Plus, she’s just a good writer. And it’s under 20 bucks!
Karen Schechner is the senior Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.
Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore, is pictured above.