Growing up, Deirdre Appelhans’ grandmother was a children’s author, and her father loved books. Wherever she lived or traveled as a child, her family would take her to second-hand book stores. This gave her the love of reading that she would carry into her adult life.
“I love books,” Abelhans said. “I am one of those people who think of books as friends. They have been such a big part of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time in second-hand bookstores growing. There were a lot of them.”
So when famous Louisville used the book store The Book Cellar that closed in 2019, Appelhans wanted to do something about it, to keep the type of bookstore used in the area they wanted to visit. She recruited her longtime friend Barbara Huntting as a business partner, and the two purchased the rights to The Book Cellar’s stock and naming rights.
“She asked me if I wanted a business partner,” Abelhans said. “I said yes.’ It was really that simple. We got a gut feeling and jumped with the belief that we were going to land.”
Appelhans and Huntting found space at 129 N. Harrison Ave. In Lafayette, an old house that has never been used for retail. The 100-year-old building needed extensive renovations, often including tearing out the interior, before the new library opened.
Once the redesign was complete, Appelhans and Huntting were preparing to open when they faced another hurdle: the government shutdown of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was terrifying because we spent all this time remodeling this building,” Abelhans said. “We felt that this couldn’t be how it would end.”
Once their store – now called The Read Queen – finally opened the day before Father’s Day in 2020, the results were clear.
“Actually, people read books,” Abelhans said. “People really like books. There is a place for e-readers, but people really like to read the book.”
Their location in Old Town Lafayette meant that The Red (pronounced “red”) Queen was in a prime position to capture foot traffic, and word of mouth began to spread.
“The word of mouth was very basic,” Abelhans said. “We just saw great community support. Kids ride bikes and come in and buy books and then read on the balcony. Lots of people started walking into the store. That’s when we felt like we had something people really wanted. A place to go, a place where they could see books and a community meeting place. .that was too warm.”
In addition to books, The Read Queen also has a café that serves coffee, espresso, tea, cake, scones, and other baked goods. They also sell merchandise and gifts.
They’ve also started ramping up the events they host. The store has been expanded to include a reading room at the back where the book club is hosted. During the Art Night Out series of summer events in Lafayette, The Read Queen hosted art workshops with local artists.
They also work with East Simpson Coffee Co. , located across the street, to start the Lafayette Harvest Festival. It is scheduled to begin on October 29.
In the meantime, they will continue to provide proof of concept that people will still support a used bookstore.
“It’s so much fun,” said Abelhans. “When I am there every day, I am surrounded by people who want to be there and are happy to be there. My job is to find fun, cool and stylish things to put in the store and talk to happy people. It is a great job.”
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