Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga., celebrates its first anniversary
this coming Friday from 6-9 p.m. in style that's become typical of a
little store with flair: it will hold a storytelling session, a
bluegrass band will perform and Jake's Ice Cream, which
shares space with the store, will unveil a new ice cream flavor created
for Little Shop of Stories.
The owners say they have much to celebrate. "We're very excited and
passionate about kids' books and putting great books into kids' hands,
and the community has responded," Diane Capriola, who owns the store
with Dave Shallenberger, told Shelf Awareness
. "In one year, we feel we've become a
major part of the community."
The 1,500-sq.-ft. store is primarily a children's store but also has a
general fiction and nonfiction section "we're very proud of," Capriola
added. "It's handpicked and much loved." Sharing space with Jake's Ice
Cream has been helpful, especially in warm weather, Capriola said.
"They're selling a lot of ice cream, when it's a slow time for books.
They're drawing a lot of people."
The store has a staff of six, including manager Terra McVoy, and some
parttimers. "We are so very fortunate because we have a great staff,"
Capriola said. "We found some top-notch people who feel as passionately
about books as we do."
Capriola described Decatur, an Atlanta suburb, as "a close-knit, small
community with outstanding schools that is the right place to support a
small independent store." Little Shop of Stories has been forming
relationships with the local schools and hopes to do book fairs with
them. It also stages storytelling events at festivals in the area and
is deeply involved in organizing the children's programming for the
first Decatur Book Festival, a grass-roots effort will take place Labor
In connection with local schools, the store has also established a
"student advisory committee," which is not unlike the student summer
galley reading program at Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo, Wash. (Shelf Awareness
, June 16
Fourth and fifth graders come to the store regularly and read ARCs of
future books, then come back and report on what they've
read. Some of the students are allowed to participate only if they
improve their grades. "They are so excited about reading books no one
else can," Capriola commented. "And it provides us great input about
whether to stock up on certain titles."
Little Shop of Stories also sponsors a parent-child book group and a
pre-teen book group, both of which have proven so popular that the
store will create more groups with the same focuses in the fall.
Both Little Shop of Stories owners are new to bookselling, and Capriola
readily admits they've had a lot to learn. She was a school
psychologist before deciding to stay home with her three children. The
idea of opening a children's store first occurred to her 10 years ago,
when her oldest child was born and she began buying children's books.
Quickly she realized Decatur "would be a good place for a kids'
After years of thinking about setting up something, she decided it was
time "to do it or move on." But she didn't want to establish a store alone
so she looked around for a business partner and eventually found Dave
Shallenberger, whom she described as "an attorney, burned out on law
and looking to make a change." At first, Shallenberger was "very
skeptical," and "we went back and forth for a while."
The turning point came at the 2004 BEA in Chicago, where the pair
attended Paz & Associates' bookselling school. "Donna gave a very
honest overview of what it's like being an independent bookseller,"
Capriola said. "She didn't sugarcoat it. We also took away the
knowledge that our community was the perfect place for a store like
One of the store's coolest ideas involves Capriola's family. As store
planning became serious, Capriola's children, all under the
age of 10, "struggled with mommy going back to work," as she put it. So
Capriola decided to "pull them in and give them a sense of ownership."
She had her six-year-old compile a list of "top 10 books for six-year-olds";
the three children write reviews "all the time," many of which
become shelf talkers. "Kids love them," she noted. "They come in and
say, 'I know Nick.' Hearing about a book from one of their peers is
sometimes more effective than from an adult."
Little Shop of Stories is located at 515 N. McDonough St., Decatur, Ga. 30030; 404-373-6300; Atlantacaps@aol.com
. A Web site comes online at the end of the summer.